Recent developments in Congress and at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) indicate that the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) is sure to remain amongst the highest priority legislative and regulatory issues in 2013. The Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee has examined TSCA reform for several years and the new top Republican on the committee, Louisiana Senator David Vitter, has made TSCA reform one of his highest priorities. In addition, Democratic Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey has long been a key champion of TSCA reform, and he has pledged to complete the effort before his retirement at the end of the Congress. In recent years, he has pushed legislation that would require increased disclosure from chemical producers as well as imposing stricter safety requirements on industry. He has looked specifically at the European Union's REACH program in crafting his proposals. To date, that legislation has been controversial and the key stakeholders such as the environmental and public health interests and chemical manufacturers have failed to reach consensus on reform. In addition, the divide between the large multinational chemical companies and the smaller domestic companies may continue to widen. However, the fact that both parties have agreed that reform is needed is the first critical step to enacting legislative reform.
Congress is not the only institution in Washington, D.C. spending considerable time on changes to TSCA. On February 26, the director of EPA's waste and chemical enforcement division stated that EPA is pursuing a strict TSCA oversight agenda for 2013, such as setting key compliance priorities, increasing the EPA's use of subpoenas to investigate chemical companies and enhancing its work with the Justice Department on consent decrees in order to spur additional industry compliance. On the same day, the acting assistant administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention stated that EPA would undertake risk assessments for 83 chemicals, pledging to work closely with manufacturers to determine risk management options when an assessment indicates that a particular chemical or compound poses a threat to human health or the environment. EPA released five draft risk assessments two months ago and will soon release two more. EPA is also expected to release the names of the next tranche of chemicals slated for assessments in 2013 and 2014.
Considering the new emphasis on TSCA by Congress and the EPA, stakeholders are beginning to pay close attention to the key policymakers in Washington, D.C. TSCA has not been reformed since its inception in the 1970s, so there is broad consensus that the law is outdated and not working effectively. One thing is certain; the dialogue around TSCA reform will continue to get louder over the next two years.