On June 22, President Obama signed into law the Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act. This act represents the first major legislation to regulate chemical management in the US since the TSCA was passed 40 years ago. The reforms finally empower the EPA to effectively evaluate and mitigate chemicals heretofore presumed safe simply because they had not been tested. The agency must now also affirm the safety of any new chemical before it can be marketed. The Lautenberg Act raises the importance of chemical management as a function of public trust to the level of the Clean Water Act, with the potential to have the same long-term positive impact on this and future generations of Americans.
With Congress considering the reconciliation of the Senate and House proposals to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) legislation for the first time since 1976, chemical management and how it will be affected by new TSCA rules has become a hot button issue in the chemical manufacturing business. Despite President Obama’s long-anticipated Supreme Court nomination taking up much of the spotlight in Congress, legislators are optimistic that broad bipartisan support for the bill will keep it moving forward through the final approval process. A number of the proposed changes remain hotly debated throughout the industry, with the burden of proof, the safeguarding of proprietary information, and the “nomenclature” or inventory section being among the most contentious.
Passed in 1976, the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) sought to protect ordinary Americans from potentially harmful chemicals used in everyday products. The wide-ranging legislation gave the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the authority to implement rigid reporting, record-keeping, and testing requirements on certain substances. However, because countless new chemicals have come into existence since that time—few of which have been tested—critics have been calling for a major overhaul of TSCA for many years. A new bill that sailed through the U.S. House of Representatives in the summer has just recently been passed by the Senate. In advance of its anticipated adoption, many states are already updating their industrial substance regulations to ensure future chemical compliance.