Yesterday, with a 15-5 bipartisan vote, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved S. 697, a compromise bill to amend the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  Four Democrats – Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Tom Carper (D-Del) – voted to approve the bill, originally sponsored by Sens. David Vitter (R-La) and Tom Udall (D-NM).  Despite bipartisan support, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Ca) continues to oppose the bill, although she has conceded that this version addresses several concerns raised by states.  The committee's action is the first time in many years that a TSCA-reform bill has progressed through a House or Senate committee and the first bill to secure bipartisan support.

The approved version of the bill includes several key changes that have led to additional Democratic support:

  •  The bill would clarify that state clean air and water laws would not be preempted;
  •  The bill would allow states to enforce state chemical regulations that are identical to federal requirements;
  •  The bill would provide for public comment on EPA's decision as to whether a chemical is a low-priority for further review and possible regulation;
  •  The bill would allow the public to legally challenge a low-priority designation;
  •  The bill would direct EPA to give preference to certain persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT) chemicals in its selection of high-priority chemicals for assessment; and
  • The bill would increase the use of cellular, computational and other non-animal test methods to assess chemicals.

With this action, amendment of TSCA during the 114th Congress may be possible, though many hurdles remain.  In the House, Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce, Environment and the Economy Subcommittee, is working on a narrower TSCA reform bill.

A copy of the revised bill is available here:

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