WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), a senior member of the Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW), called on Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) to continue working in a bipartisan fashion to improve the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and to set aside plans to move forward on divisive legislation that ignores scientific best practices and weakens important protections. Sen. Cardin believes more improvements are needed to S. 697 before the Senate reports the bill and S. 544 has already drawn a veto promise from President Obama. During the markup Tuesday, Senator Cardin, who is the Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was serving as Democratic floor manager for the Iran Nuclear Review Act.
The first bill approved by the EPW committee was S. 697, The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, an update of the Toxics Substance Control Act of 1976.
“The Toxic Substances Control Act, or TSCA, is our nation’s preeminent toxic chemical safety law, and it is badly broken. TSCA is the law which ostensibly allows the EPA to test and regulate chemicals to protect public health. Except it that it simply doesn’t. In fact, the current law makes it nearly impossible for the EPA to protect people from chemicals that they know to be harmful, even cancer causing,” said Senator Cardin.
“In 1976 when TSCA was first enacted, there were 62,000 chemicals on the market. Those chemicals were all simply deemed safe and grandfathered in–and allowed to be in our homes, schools, workplaces, cars, clothes, toys, baby pacifiers and the containers from which we eat, drink and reheat our food–without testing by either the EPA or the manufacturers themselves. Since then, 22,000 chemicals have been introduced to the market and EPA has tested only 200, and has only partially regulated—not banned—only 5: PCBs, CFCs, dioxin, asbestos, and hexavalent chromium. Clearly, TSCA needs to be reformed, but any changes must be both meaningful and robust.
“I want to thank Senators Whitehouse, Merkley, and Booker for their tireless work over the last two months to make the Udall-Vitter bill more protective of the public’s health. I commend them for their work, and I support the improvements made in the Manager’s Amendment, but we can and must do better. While I am pleased with the state co-enforcement provision, the bill considered by the EPW committee today does not allow the states to go past the regulations set in place by the EPA.ac I’m concerned about hamstringing the states when it comes to protecting their citizens. As Maryland’s Attorney General Brian Frosh testified in last month’s hearing, this is an important power for the states to have and this bill represents the ‘near evisceration of state authority to regulate toxic chemicals.’ Maryland is a leader in protecting our citizens from the harms of chemicals we know to be toxics but that the EPA has failed to regulate and any bill that I would support must include a strong role for the states.
“I am also still very concerned with the safety standard as set forth in the bill and how this bill treats so-called Low Priority chemicals. These provisions are inadequate and would put the public at risk.”
The second bill, S.544, the Secret Science Reform Act of 2015, represents both troubling policy and an unfortunate break from procedural precedent in the committee, as it bypassed regular order and moved straight to full committee consideration without a public hearing. The bill itself would dramatically change what data and scientific research the Environmental Protection Agency could use in fulfilling its mission to protect public health and welfare.
“I want to express serious disappointment in the decision to subvert the regular order process to bring this bill before the committee for a vote. It is a longstanding tradition of the committee to hold legislative hearings on bills before they comes to vote in committee. It is ironic that a bill, claiming to require greater transparency at the Environmental Protection Agency, is moving through committee without any scrutiny or formal examination,” said Senator Cardin.
“The so-called reforms of the Secret Science Reform Act would increase the administrative burden of regulation to the tune of $250 million annually according to CBO. The extreme procedural and administrative burden this legislation places on EPA to simply uphold the law would effectively prevent EPA from fulfilling its legal obligation to regulate pollution. S. 544 prohibits EPA from using public health studies that are based on actual patient medical records, thus making EPA’s regulatory process much more difficult, cumbersome and full of potential pitfalls.
“Large sectors of the medical and public community share my concerns about the policy implications of this bill. The American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Lung Association, American Thoracic Society, American Statistical Association, American Association for Justice, American Public Health Association, Union of Concerned Scientists, National Physicians Alliance and the International Society for Environmental Epidemiology all oppose this legislation.
“Such sweeping reforms leave in their wake a legal minefield that would appear to be designed to undermine the quality of the science informing our public health policies and stop the EPA from doing its job.”