TSCA REFORM: Can We Get There from Here?

Posted on 2/28/2014 2:08:56 PM By Mark Collatz

In the last couple of weeks, I have spent considerable time meeting with Senate staffers trying to understand what it is going to take to get the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) reform legislation moving again.

As you are probably aware, Senator David Vitter and the late Senator Frank Lautenberg introduced the Chemical Safety and Improvement Act (CSIA) (S.1009) last spring, and it was heralded at the outset as a truly bipartisan approach to reforming an almost 40 year-old law that everyone agreed needed fixing.  Within weeks, twenty-five senators from political persuasions as diverse as Patty Murray and Marco Rubio had signed on as cosponsors, and there seemed like momentum was building that could actually result in the passage of the first environmental legislation since the 1990 Clean Air Act.

Then, those with their own parochial interests and agendas started to raise questions and concerns.  Some were legitimate, but many that were not.  A July Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee hearing raised particular concerns with the rights of individual states to do their own characterizations regarding the safety of certain chemicals.  Suddenly, the news about what once seemed so promising went dark.

Well, I am here to tell you in the words of that great philosopher, Yogi Berra—“It ain’ t over ‘til it’s over.” 

The staffs of Senator Vitter and Senator Tom Udall have been working diligently throughout the fall and winter to develop amended language that will address many of the criticisms and complaints raised last year.  While the specific changes and revisions are not yet available, it will only be a matter of weeks before an amended CSIA will be public.

In the interim, ASC, along with approximately two dozen other industry associations have been visiting Capitol Hill offices in the recent weeks to alert potential cosponsors not only of the CSIA revisions, but also to determine what other legitimate concerns they might have with the legislation. Anything that should be fixed, must be fixed now.  There will not be time for any other “do-overs” later in the year.

It is also important to note that the associations doing this important groundwork are not simply representing chemical related interests.  Associations as diverse as the Grocery Manufacturers Association to the Toy Industry Association to National Association of Manufacturers have all been involved in this effort to refocus the Senate on the importance of TSCA reform in the 113th Congress.

In recognizing diversity of support from the association community, it should also be noted that other non-manufacturing groups have thrown their weight behind the CSIA as well.  More than twenty national, state and local labor groups have recognized the importance of this bipartisan legislation.  Groups as diverse as the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers to the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters to the Nevada AFL-CIO to the Philadelphia Local Plumbers Union have voiced their support.  All have acknowledged that CSIA strikes a balance between protecting the public and ensuring prosperity and growth by making the chemical screening process more transparent, while providing stronger protections for trade secrets and intellectual property.

If you are part of the end-user community, you may wonder why TSCA reform should be important to your operations. My answer is simple.  Our industry, like many others, relies on continuous innovation to bring customers new and exciting products that often allow those customers to, in turn, develop their own new product offerings.  If TSCA reform legislation results in threatening an innovator’s ability to protect a new formula or allows individual states or municipalities to independently impact the sale or use of certain types of products because of their chemical content, then innovation eventually dies.  This is why representatives from such diverse industries like toys, electronics, and automotive are all involved in making Congress understand that we need TSCA reform, but we also need to get TSCA reform that works for everyone. 

In the next few weeks, once the new revisions have been incorporated into S. 1009, it will be important for both those formulating with chemicals and those in the end-user community to again take up the “education process”  of your individual senators regarding the critical importance of CSIA. For the last two years, ASC’s Regulatory Affairs Committee has identified TSCA reform as one of the critical issues facing our industry.  They have made important contributions to include building the ASC Action Center for just this type of moment and issue.  In the coming weeks we will be developing a message that is clear and compelling.  It will then be your responsibility to use that message, and through power of your individual voices make your elected representatives understand that the time for TSCA reform is nowRight now.

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