Friday, November 18, 2011

Ecology’s Director Sturdevant tells D.C. panel why federal chemical policy needs updating

By Ken Zarker, Hazardous Waste and Toxics Reduction Program

Ecology Director Ted Sturdevant testified on Nov. 17 at the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011 . In conveying his views, Ted outlined the reasons why states care about modernizing Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). He talked about what states have had to do faced with an outdated and ineffective federal chemicals policy.

The committee also heard testimony from Charlotte Brody, director of Chemicals, Public Health and Green Chemistry for the BlueGreen Alliance; Cal Dooley, president and CEO of the American Chemistry Council; Robert Matthews, counsel at McKenna Long & Aldridge; and Dr. Richard Denison, senior scientist for the Environmental Defense Fund.

Coordinated effort among states

I’ve found that working with other leadership states on TSCA reform has created better coordination on state chemicals management issues. Over this past week, Ecology worked with state environmental leaders from California, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Vermont, and the Environmental Council of the States (ECOS) to issue a press release calling for federal leadership on chemical regulation.

In the absence of federal action, state legislatures have stepped in to address constituent concerns about chemicals. Over the past nine years, 18 states have acted on more than 81 individual state chemicals policy initiatives. According to a report by SAFER States and a recent New Hampshire poll by the Natural Resources Defense Council, these state policies have received high levels of bipartisan support among state legislators and their constituents.

Praise and concerns expressed

The tone of the hearing was generally positive, with praise for Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-New Jersey and Sen. James M. Inhofe, R-Okla., for their leadership role. They worked with states and other stakeholders to help advance legislation that updates the 35-year-old TSCA law. Things did get a little testy with several senators challenging Cal Dooley to include suggested legislative language to help improve the bill.

Most key concerns for the states were addressed in a letter to Sen. Lautenberg and Sen. Inhofe sent in August 2011. We are looking forward to continued dialogue and are open to suggestions to help improve the bill.

Read more in this Seattle Times article.

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