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© Krantz News Service, May 25, 2016


A major overhaul of the federal government's toxic substances oversight gives less flexibility to state regulators, but its bipartisan advocates say it eliminates regulatory uncertainty.

President Obama has signed the bill formerly known as the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act. It updates the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976.

Industry advocates had critized what they saw as a patchwork of state regulations nationwide.

The Auto Alliance, American Chemistry Council, National Association of Manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce backed passage of the bill.

The new legislation "protects public health and the environment, while preserving America's place as a leading innovator of transformational new products and materials," the industry group said in a letter to members of Congress. "This carefully-crafted bipartisan legislation is the product of a multi-year effort to balance the interests and input of a broad array of stakeholders in order to create a strong 21st century chemicals management system."

Some state regulators had demurred. They called on Congress to respect their role in assuring chemical safety in their states. "As state environmental officials, we are greatly concerned about pending TSCA reform legislation in the Congress that will restrict states' abilities to protect their citizens from toxic chemicals," they said in a May 19 statement. "Unfortunately, the most recent agreement goes too far in preempting our states' abilities to continue to protect our residents. To be clear, there are good elements in the legislation. However, state authorities are excessively and unnecessarily preempted, in exchange for the promise of federal protection that is too meager."

Nevertheless, the measure has wide support from a variety of groups, including the Environmental Defense Fund, which stated, "This historic milestone has been many years in the making. All those in Congress who had the courage to work across party lines to finally begin protecting American families from the dangers of toxic chemicals deserve our thanks."

The 1976 act the bill replaces was widely considered toothless. One of the authors of the original Senate version of the overhaul bill, Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), noted that in 40 years under the Toxic Substances Control Act, the EPA restricted just five chemicals and prevented only four from going to market, out of some 85,000 available in the marketplace.

"For the first time in 40 years, we will have a working chemical safety law that protects our children and our communities from dangerous chemicals," he said.

The Environmental Protection Agency will have a mandate to regulate a wide range of toxic substances. "The bill approved Tuesday would set new safety standards for asbestos and other dangerous chemicals, including formaldehyde, styrene and Bisphenol A, better known as BPA, that have gone unregulated for decades," The Associated Press reported.

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