On July 31, 2013, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) held a hearing on "Strengthening Public Health Protections by Addressing Toxic Chemical Threats." The exceptionally long hearing included three panels of 19 witnesses and focused on potential reform to the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 (TSCA). The detailed report of the hearing issued by Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. is available online.
The hearing largely focused on bipartisan legislation to reform TSCA, recently introduced by Senator David Vitter (R-LA) and the late Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) -- S. 1009, the "Chemical Safety Improvement Act" (CSIA). A Law360 article recently published by Lynn Bergeson contains a detailed discussion of the significance and provisions of this legislation. With 25 bipartisan co-sponsors, CSIA is "a potentially politically viable framework for TSCA reform and renewed hope that badly needed modernization of this ancient law may occur."
Any legislative vehicle to reform TSCA will need to go through the EPW Committee. While many believe the CSIA represents a bipartisan move in the right direction toward TSCA reform, Chair Boxer does not support the legislation as written. She is concerned about its potential to preempt Proposition 65, California's law to regulate unsafe chemicals. During Wednesday's hearing, several witnesses opposed to CSIA in its current form expressed similar preemption concerns, as well as concerns that the bill could provide chemical companies too much protection from requirements to release confidential business information and fail to protect vulnerable populations. Proponents argued that the bill would not preempt state laws until the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has made a safety determination.
Senator Vitter and Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) are working to move CSIA forward through the legislative process. They have committed to work to address the concerns raised at this week's hearing in the version of CSIA which may be voted on by the EPW Committee later this year. Their revised version of the bill, or manager's amendment, is expected to be released early this fall, after the August Congressional recess.