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Tonko Votes Against TSCA

Rep describes small victories in TSCA, but bill is ultimately a step backward

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Washington, May 24, 2016 | Sean Magers (202-225-5076) | comments
We must have a strong national chemical program to protect Americans. Ultimately, this bill falls short.
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Congressman Paul D. Tonko (D-NY) released the following statement this afternoon after voting against legislation to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), citing several major concerns with the legislation. Tonko is the Ranking Member of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy. To view Tonko’s floor speech Tuesday in opposition to TSCA, click here.

“For many years, I have worked with Democratic and Republican Members of Congress to update and strengthen TSCA, a chemical safety law that has not worked or been updated since 1976. We have negotiated in good faith to try to reach an agreement to fix EPA’s chemical program. And while there are positive aspects of this bill, ultimately, it falls short. It is with regret that I stand in opposition to TSCA today.

In some ways, the bill will improve current law. EPA will gain new authority, there will be lower barriers on testing, and the ‘least burdensome’ standard in the chemical regulation process will be removed.

However, for every positive step we took to protect public health and the environment, there are multiple provisions that undermine progress and make this bill a loss for the American consumer and our environment as a whole. This bill includes:

  • New restrictions on EPA’s ability to apply Significant New Use Rules. This is one action under current law that has actually worked.
  • A resource-intensive prioritization process that largely duplicates the work EPA has done to identify chemicals of concern and place them on the Work Plan.
  • A new category during for prioritization called “low priority.” This designation may give consumers the perception that a chemical is safe despite it never being fully evaluated by EPA.
  • A provision on nomenclature that may create loopholes to enable new chemicals to avoid going through EPA’s new chemical review program.
  • New hurdles for EPA to regulate existing chemicals in certain replacement parts.

In addition to these flaws, my top concern with the final version of TSCA is the pre-emption provision. The inclusion of “regulatory pause,” which prevents states from acting for three and a-half years while EPA is reviewing a chemical, is a misguided and unprecedented policy that we should not encourage in a chemical reform overhaul. The lack of balance between new federal authorities and restrictions on states’ ability to further regulate is a core flaw in reform that cannot be ignored. I do not believe the modest improvements this legislation makes to the federal program are sufficient to warrant these restrictions.

We must have a strong national chemical program to protect Americans. However, I was not convinced that the program that will be put into place by this bill justifies the unprecedented, new limitation of states’ authorities.

I have no doubt people on both sides of this debate genuinely want to ensure Americans are protected from dangerous and toxic chemicals. I thank Chairman Upton, Ranking Member Pallone, and Chairman Shimkus – as well as staffs on both sides of the aisle in Energy and Commerce – for countless hours of work over the past few years.

It is my hope that future Congresses will continue to work to strengthen and improve TSCA – and enhance the health of both American families and our environment at the same time. I look forward to working to ensure this bill is implemented as effectively as possible,” said Tonko.

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