Momentum Builds for Toxics Reform
Molly Rauch, MPH
November 17, 2011
We are really making progress on toxics
policy. This week, the Senate Environment
and Public Works committee held a legislative hearing on the
Safe Chemicals Act of 2011 (S.
847), introduced last spring by Senator Lautenberg (D-NJ). The Safe Chemicals
Act offers badly-needed modernization of
the Toxics Substances Control Act (TSCA), the only major environmental statute
to have escaped reform since its initial enactment. TSCA is now 35 years old,
and while science and public health have seen tremendous advancement in that
time, TSCA has not changed.
Today was significant
because there has never been a Senate-side legislative hearing on reform of TSCA.
At the hearing, the committee discussed the specific policy strategies outlined in the bill.
The hearing today
followed several months of closed-door, bipartisan stakeholder discussions
organized by Senator Lautenberg’s and Senator Inhofe’s offices. These
discussions, a rare bipartisan effort in this bitterly divided Congress,
brought the chemical industry, consumer products groups, health groups, and
environmental groups to the Senate to discuss what they wanted to see in the
legislation. Today’s hearing was the first public indication of the outcome of
The packed hearing room included mom activists from
the Safer Chemicals Healthy Families
campaign, including Aidan, the eight month old who provided occasional coos and
was personally thanked by Senator Gillibrand (D-NY), a co-sponsor of the Safe
Chemicals Act, for attending the hearing.
Five witnesses addressed the committee today: Ted
Sturdevant, director of the state of
Washington’s Department of Ecology; Charlotte Brody, director of chemicals,
public health and green chemistry for the BlueGreen Alliance; Cal Dooley,
president of the American Chemistry Council; Robert Matthews, of the lawfirm
McKenna Long & Aldridge and representing the Consumer Specialty Products
Association; and Richard Denison, senior scientist with the Environmental
Defense Fund. Their written testimony is available on the Committee website.
Much of the testimony focused on the need for the
Safe Chemicals Act, its potential to create jobs and spur innovation in the
chemical industry, its health benefits, and its potential benefit to state
regulators. The American Chemistry Council seemed to be reading from a
different script, however. While praising the bipartisan stakeholder process
(the closed-door meetings mentioned above), ACC president Cal Dooley expressed
disappointment and disagreement with the proposed bill. “Today we are
discussing a bill… that we consider unworkable,” he said.
After the witnesses presented testimony, Senators
questioned the witnesses. Most of the questions were directed at Dooley, a
former Member of Congress. Lautenberg reminded him that he didn’t get to vote
in the committee. How important his approval is of the proposed legislation
remains to be seen.
Current co-sponsors of the Safe
Chemicals Act of 2011 are: Blumenthal (D-CT), Boxer (D-CA), Durbin (D-IL),
Franken (D-MN), Gillibrand (D-NY), Klobuchar (D-MN), Leahy (D-VT), Menendez (D-NJ),
Merkley (D-OR), Sanders (D-VT), Schumer (D-NY), and Whitehouse (D-RI).
Some things you can do:
- Call your Senator. Tell him or her that you are a
constituent and that you have your eye on this important event.
- Ask your Senator to stand up for the
health of Americans by supporting reform of the outdated Toxics Substances
Control Act. If he or she is one of the 12 co-sponsors of the Safe Chemicals Act, say thank
you! If he or she is not, ask him or her to take this important step.
- Tweet your Senator to tell him or her what you think of
the hearing, and how you feel about chemicals in consumer products.
Next week I will post a blog with more
details about the hearing, including some of the thorniest areas of policy
debate as well as how our toxics champions in the Senate put American Chemistry
Council’s Dooley on the spot.