Toxic Substances Control Act Hearings — A Hopeful Start
We noted on Tuesday that the Toxic Substances Control Act would soon be under review. Yesterday was the opening day of the House of Representatives’ hearing: “Revisiting the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976.” The goal of the hearing is to reform the TSCA. The Honorable Bobby L. Rush (D-IL) opened the hearing with the statement that appears below. With this auspicious beginning, we hold out hope that our lawmakers will take bold, yet carefully considered, action to safeguard the health of our nation and our planet.
Yet, this is only the beginning. We must not become complacent and accept mere lip service. We at BPGL urge all Americans to let your congressional officials know that you’re counting on them. All of our lives — and especially those of our most vulnerable citizens — depend on the strength and enforceability of the TSCA. — Julia Wasson
The Honorable Bobby L. Rush’s statement appears below:
WASHINGTON, DC — “I want to welcome the Members of the Subcommittee to our first hearing of the 111th Congress. I am honored to chair this distinguished subcommittee and I will strive to serve all of its members honorably.
“I truly look forward to working with everyone on a productive legislative and oversight agenda.
“In this regard, our first hearing of the 111th Congress is an ambitious one and represents a new addition to the subcommittee’s jurisdiction. Today’s hearing will explore the major issues surrounding the Toxic Substances Control Act, also known as TSCA.
“TSCA was enacted in 1976 and originally consisted of one title, which remains the heart of the statute. While Congress, over the years, has added additional titles to TSCA addressing individual chemicals and substances, Congress has done very little with regard to Title I. TSCA and Title I have never been reauthorized or reformed, and very little oversight has been conducted on the statute’s effectiveness. Today, I hope to start a deliberative process that reverses this Congressional inaction of the past. By most accounts, TSCA is badly in need of reform. While opinions may vary on the degree and nature of the reforms needed, there is a broad consensus among a diversity of stakeholders that TSCA needs to be reexamined.
“The scope of TSCA is very broad, and its intent is ambitious. TSCA is meant to provide adequate data on the potential health and environmental risks of all chemical substances and mixtures in the United States. Furthermore, the statute is supposed to provide EPA with adequate regulatory tools to protect the public from unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment. Unfortunately, the statute has seemingly been a failure on both of these basic policy goals.
“Critics contend that the TSCA has failed to generate data on the health risks of the approximately 80,000 chemicals currently in use and the approximately 700 new chemicals introduced into commerce every year. Even though Sections 4 and 5 of TSCA authorize EPA to force companies to test their chemical products and generate risk data, the hoops the agency must jump through in order to exercise this authority have proven to be too burdensome. Rulemakings take years to finalize, cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and are subject to constant legal action by companies who do not want to comply. As a former EPA Assistant Administrator once said, “It’s almost as if we have to, first, prove that the chemicals are risky before we can have the testing done to show whether or not the chemicals are risky.”
“Furthermore, once the EPA has made a determination that a chemical poses a health or environmental hazard, they have been unable to act on this determination. Section 6 of TSCA provides EPA with broad authority to regulate and ban toxic chemicals, but the burden of proof for action has proved so high that banning a chemical is virtually impossible. I think most Americans would be very surprised to learn that asbestos — a known carcinogen that kills 8,000 Americans every year — has not been banned by the EPA under TSCA, because the courts have ruled that EPA did not meet its evidentiary burden of proving that asbestos is an “unreasonable risk” to the public. If TSCA is incapable of providing EPA with the regulatory tools to ban asbestos, then the statutes seem to be in need of serious repair.
“I yield back the balance of my time.”
Statement by the Honorable Bobby L. Rush, Chairman
Committee on Energy and Commerce
Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection
Hearing: Revisiting the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976
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