Lower Expectations for TSCA Reauthorization in 2011

Date: Mar 23, 2011

The Toxic Substance Control Act's (TSCA) reauthorization has experienced a dramatic shift in momentum. Last year's sweeping proposals have lost their steam - and probably will not see daylight in 2011. In a recent interview with Inside EPA, the new Republican leadership sent a clear, public message that only targeted initiatives will be considered. 

In dire need of an upgrade: US global leadership in chemical control. During a recent Chemical Heritage Society briefing, one suggestion offered by former program heads of the TSCA office as way to reinvigorate the US position is for Congress to adopt PIC and POPs. Ratifying PIC and POPs will allow EPA to join international efforts to harmonize the reporting of regulated chemicals as they are imported and exported.  

Another suggestion at the Society briefing was to increase the visibility and importance of the program by requiring EPA to submit an annual report to Congress on TSCA implementation. Annual reports to Congress could underscore the dominance and success of the program's new chemical reporting functionality, and at the same time, highlight areas for advancing the program. These reports serve an important educational purpose, invite discussion on priority-setting, and they keep chemical control more squarely in front of legislators.   

A targeted approach by Congress on TSCA makes good sense. Frankly, not every aspect of TSCA needs a major fix. EPA's new chemical review program is quite robust. It stands toe-to-toe with its international counterparts. On the other hand, there is little disagreement that finding a smart and better way for EPA to regulate existing chemicals is in need of the most attention. Re-enforcing public confidence in TSCA's ability to address emerging technologies will be important as well. By comparison, the two initiatives suggested above are modest. They would permit Congress to test the waters on chemical control policy and help build a track record and experience to re-think the more difficult areas of chemicals management policy.   

TSCA Reform, which seemed within reach just a few short months ago, is once again an amorphous concept on Capitol Hill, lacking any definite form, shape, or organization.   

Visit Keller and Heckman's TSCA Reform Center at www.tsca-reform.com for up-to-the-minute coverage and to review more detailed analysis of this legislation as it is developed.