On June 7, 2016, the Senate passed the House Amendments of the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (HR 2576) which resolved a debate over preempting States from enacting their own requirements. Currently almost 30 states, led by California, have passed more than 100 laws regulating chemicals. The final version of HR 2576 will allow States an additional year to regulate some substances before the Environmental Protection Agency could preempt them. EPA can then retain enacted state regulations and laws for chemicals, but temporarily stop new regulations while the agency is assessing a chemical’s risks. The Bill was then sent to the President on June 14th for signature which he signed into law June 22nd.
This Toxic Substances Control Act legislation is significant because it is the first major environmental law passed since 1990. It gives the EPA authority to evaluate and impose restrictions on chemicals used in everything from dry-cleaning to grease removal to paint thinners along with some nasty chemicals used by chemical manufacturers as raw materials. The Bill mandates that EPA must only review 10 chemicals at a time, which eventually increases to 20 chemicals. These reviews could take up to several years, although EPA has already identified about 100 chemicals to be potentially regulated. Some environmental and chemical safety groups are not pleased with the apparent slow pace, but chemical manufacturing associations, like American Chemistry Council ACC), support the new Bill since it creates a unified, national set of regulations rather than the patchwork of State-by-State rules which chemical manufacturers have had to follow.
President Obama said that at the time TSCA was signed, there were 62,000 chemicals already on the market. “Out of those original 62,000 chemicals, only five have been banned. Five,” said President Obama. “And only a tiny percentage have even been reviewed for health and safety. The system was so complex, it was so burdensome, that our country hasn’t even been able to uphold a ban on asbestos – a known carcinogen that kills as many as 10,000 Americans every year. I think a lot of Americans would be shocked by all that.”
Chemical manufacturers as a group will pay up to $25 million which is 25% of the program costs. Also, individual companies will pay for any reviews that they specifically request of the EPA. Such testing could cost from thousands of dollars per year to millions, according to an ACC spokesperson.