Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Washington and Ecology at center of push for national chemical policy reform

By Ken Zarker, Hazardous Waste and Toxics Reduction Program

Chemicals regulations are changing across the United States, as well as globally. The federal chemical policy – the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) — is intended to keep the public safe from toxic chemicals. This law was passed more than 35 years ago and has never been updated. It needs an overhaul.

The past few months have been an exciting and hopeful time for national chemical policy reform. Specifically, I had the opportunity to take part in several efforts recently to support revamping TSCA. In late August, Ted Sturdevant, Ecology’s director, submitted comments on behalf of Washington and eight other states to U.S Senators Frank Lautenberg and James Inhofe regarding the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011, the bill they have sponsored to replace TSCA.

As a follow-up, I had the opportunity to meet with staffers Ben Dunham with Sen. Lautenberg’s office and Dimitir Karakitsos with Sen. Inhofe’s office to discuss the state comments and prospects for Senate action later this year. Senate staff reported they were conducting a series of stakeholder meetings with industry and non-governmental organizations. They also said the senators would consider further action if warranted, including states' input on a possible bill markup.

On September 26, I attended the Environmental Council of the States (ECOS) TSCA panel during the ECOS Cross-Media Committee meeting held in Indianapolis, Indiana. The panel featured Wendy Cleland Hamnet of EPA, our own Ted Sturdevant, Sarah Brozena of the American Chemistry Council, Julie Froelicher of Proctor & Gamble, and Jeff Gearhart of the Ecology Center in Michigan. The panel discussed opportunities for modernizing TSCA. ECOS discussed its work with bipartisan Senate leadership to ensure that state concerns are addressed in the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011.Panel participation demonstrated that there’s broad support for modernizing TSCA — a law that was enacted more than 35 years ago.

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