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Are Chemical Regulations Possible in a Faltering Economy?

Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) is expected to introduce a bill that aims to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) with the purpose of shifting the responsibility of determining safety from EPA to industry.

The need to reform TSCA has become ever more pertinent after the release from the Government Accountability Office in January which stated that the program was at high risk of fraud, abuse and general waste. Since chemical safety testing remains the agenda of the agency and its directors and potentially hazardous chemicals could be allowed to circulate in the environment for years before government oversight occurs.

Industry has been generally opposed to this bill, specifically a few previsions. One that states that a company’s CEOs must certify that all their products are safe and that companies are expected to conduct (pay) for biomonitoring around chemical plants, especially since that duty has fallen on Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

In light of the current economic situation, it raises the question whether elected officials will be willing to shift costs to industry. TSCA was passed in 1976 and thus far has not seen major changes. However, on the opposite side opponents have hailed the measure as a way to reduce government spending and mitigate long term costs that may be associated with future clean-up of hazardous sites. In addition, standards passed in Europe may also be a catalyst for companies to adopt stricter standards anyways.

At the federal level the American Chemistry Council have moved to oppose the bill, but despite what may occur in Congress that State of Minnesota has bills waiting in its chambers that would begin to ban “high-risk? chemicals. Many environmental organizations and some in industry would however argue that a more comprehensive regulation would be preferable.

Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs
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