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Bipartisan TSCA Modernization Bill, Chemical Safety Improvement Act, Introduced in Senate
In a major breakthrough, bipartisan and broadly supported legislation to modernize the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) has been introduced in the Senate. The Chemical Safety Improvement Act (CSIA), S. 1009, was announced on May 22, 2013 by its chief Democratic and Republican sponsors, Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Senator David Vitter (R-LA). This client alert provides the political context for this remarkable development, and then explains the key provisions of the bill. It concludes with comments on the prospects for passage.
Just weeks ago, Senator Lautenberg, a longtime champion of TSCA reform, had reintroduced his own comprehensive chemical safety bill, the Safe Chemicals Act (SCA), as described in our previous report. The SCA targets many of the same aspects of TSCA as the CSIA does, but applies different, often more complex approaches. The SCA has obtained support only from the Democratic caucus, with 26 Democratic and 2 Independent co-sponsors. This one-sided support left the SCA with few prospects for passage by the Republican-majority House of Representatives, even assuming that the Democratic majority in the Senate could pass it.
Now, with Senator Lautenberg’s retirement next year lending more urgency to his quest for a viable TSCA modernization bill, the long-sought goal of bipartisan support has been achieved. As of this writing, the CSIA has been co-sponsored not only by a number of Democratic senators who had co-sponsored the SCA, but also by eight Republicans, as well as three more conservative Democratic senators who had not signed on to the SCA. Since the original introduction, three more Democrats and one more Republican have co-sponsored the bill, for a total of 19 co-sponsors (10 Democrats and 9 Republicans).
EPA has not commented publicly on the bill, although two former EPA officials in the TSCA office, Steve Owens and Charlie Auer, issued statements of support.
There is no guarantee of passage, but never before have the prospects for TSCA modernization been more favorable.
The CSIA would mandate that EPA determine, on a prioritized basis, whether chemical substances meet a safety standard under the intended conditions of use. If they are found not to meet the safety standard, EPA would have to regulate them. The CSIA would establish a prioritization mechanism; set a safety standard; require EPA to determine whether chemical substances meet that safety standard under the intended conditions of use, by deadlines set by EPA; authorize EPA to require testing when additional information is needed in order to complete that determination; and direct EPA to select risk management measures by taking costs and benefits into account, but not by requiring use of the least burdensome alternative.
In addition to these core provisions, the bill would make limited changes to the new chemical provisions; require reporting by processors; lead to identification of chemical substances that are actively manufactured or processed; revise confidentiality protections, including protection for chemical identities; expand preemption of state and local restrictions of chemicals; and update export and import reporting requirements.
The prioritization mechanism would classify a chemical substance as being a high priority or a low priority for a safety assessment and safety determination. With few exceptions, only chemicals classified as active (see below) would be considered for prioritization. Only high-priority chemical substances would continue on to safety assessments and determinations.
For the most part, there would be no statutory deadlines for completing the prioritization process, but EPA would have to make every effort to complete the prioritization of all active substances in a timely manner. A state governor or agency could recommend chemical substances for prioritization; EPA would have to complete its prioritization of those substances within 180 days. If EPA were to need additional information before prioritizing a chemical substance, it could ask the public to submit existing data, but it could not require testing. Lists of high- and low-priority substances would be made public.
3. Safety Assessments and Safety Determinations
EPA would conduct a safety assessment and then a safety determination of each high-priority substance. The safety assessment would be based solely on considerations of risks to health and the environment. EPA would have to establish a methodology for conducting safety assessments and would have to rely on the best available science. The methodology would have to be reviewed every five years and updated as necessary.
Upon completing a safety assessment, EPA would make a safety determination, i.e., determine whether or not the chemical substance meets the safety standard under the intended conditions of use, taking into account factors such as the range of exposure, the weight of the evidence, and the magnitude of the risk.
EPA could require testing if necessary for it to complete either a safety assessment or a safety determination.
There would be no statutory deadlines, but EPA would have to set its own deadlines for completing each safety assessment and safety determination. Those deadlines could vary for different chemical substances. If EPA found that it could not meet a deadline, it would have to explain publicly the reasons for extending the deadline. This innovative approach would subject EPA to deadlines that are likely to be realistic (since it would set them itself), but would avoid the sue-and-settle litigation over failure to meet statutory deadlines that has proven problematic under some other environmental statutes.
Proposed safety assessments and safety determinations would be available for public comment. Final versions would also be made public. Safety determinations would be subject to judicial review.
4. Safety Standard
The safety standard used for safety determinations would be a standard that ensures that no unreasonable risk of harm to human health or the environment will result from exposure to the chemical substance. Compliance with the safety standard would be assessed in light of the intended conditions of use, meaning the circumstances under which a chemical substance is intended or reasonably anticipated to be manufactured, processed, distributed in commerce, used, or disposed of.
This “unreasonable risk” standard would differ from the “unreasonable risk” standard currently in TSCA. That one mandates a weighing of costs and benefits of regulation, the chemical substance, and its alternatives. The CSIA “unreasonable risk” standard would not be a weighing of competing economic and social factors, but rather a judgment after evaluation of various aspects of risk to health and the environment. Among the factors that EPA would consider would be the subpopulations that would be exposed, the degree of exposure, and the protections provided by the intended conditions of use (such as use of engineering controls, protective clothing, or warnings). For example, presumably EPA could find that a chemical substance meets the safety standard under the intended conditions of use for occupational exposure but not for exposure to children.
5. Risk Management
If EPA were to find that a chemical substance did not meet the safety standard under the intended conditions of use, it would have to adopt risk management measures through rulemaking. EPA could consider a wide variety of options, such as labeling, quantity or use restrictions, or even phase-outs or bans, if appropriate. Unlike under current TSCA, EPA would not be constrained to select the least burdensome option.
EPA would evaluate the different risk management options in terms of costs and benefits. It would have to consider whether technically and economically feasible alternatives exist; the risks of those alternatives as compared to the risks of the chemical substance under the intended conditions of use; the economic and social costs and benefits of the preferred regulatory option and other options considered; and the economic and social costs and benefits of the chemical substance and its alternatives.
6. New Chemicals and Significant New Uses of Existing Chemicals
Under the CSIA, the current approach for premanufacture notifications (PMNs) for new chemicals, and for significant new use rules (SNURs) and significant new use notices (SNUNs) for new uses of existing chemicals, would continue. The bill would codify some of EPA’s current administrative practices for review of PMNs and SNUNs. The authority for the current PMN exemptions, such as those for R&D, polymers, and low volume, would remain unchanged.
In evaluating PMNs and SNUNs, EPA would determine whether or not the new chemicals and significant new uses were likely to meet the safety standard under the intended conditions of use. If so, EPA would allow the review period to end and the PMN submitter to submit a notice of commencement of commercial manufacture or import (NOC). If EPA were to determine that a new chemical substance or significant new use would not be likely to meet the safety standard, it would have to impose restrictions in a manner similar to section 5(e) consent orders under current TSCA.
If EPA were to determine that it needed more information in order to make a determination about likelihood of meeting the safety standard, it could require the submitter to develop the information through testing. However, rather than require test results to be submitted before manufacture or the significant new use could commence, EPA could allow the submitter to file an NOC, begin commercial manufacture or the significant new use, and thereby generate income to pay for the testing. If the test results later created concerns for EPA, it could prioritize the chemical substance as a high-priority substance.
Unlike the SCA, the CSIA would have no requirements for submission of minimum information sets in specified circumstances. Instead, under the CSIA, EPA could require testing where it found that it needed additional data in order to complete a safety assessment or a safety determination, or to make a determination of likelihood of meeting the safety standard for a new chemical substance or a significant new use. It could also require testing to meet agency needs under another federal law.
EPA would have to explain its need for testing, including an explanation of why existing information could not be extrapolated to meet the need. Testing requirements would have to be tiered. There would be provisions to encourage alternatives to animal testing.
It would generally be easier for EPA to require testing under the CSIA than under current TSCA. EPA would not have to establish that a chemical substance may pose an unreasonable risk or meets certain volume or exposure levels, and it would not have to proceed by rulemaking. Instead, it could issue an order or enter into a consent agreement to require testing.
8. Reporting and Recordkeeping
EPA currently has authority to require processors to report information, but it rarely exercises that authority. The CSIA would require EPA to adopt reporting requirements for processors, although the requirements could differ from those for manufacturers.
The CSIA would address some of issues of nomenclature used for naming chemical substances on the TSCA Inventory. For example, individual members of statutory mixtures listed on the Inventory would be declared to be on the Inventory. EPA would be directed to continue using its Class 2 and carbon chain length nomenclature.
EPA would have to identify those chemical substances on the Inventory that are active, i.e., have been manufactured or processed within the past five years. It would do so by establishing a candidate list of proposed active substances, then requiring manufacturers and processors to report either the candidate list substances or other substances on the Inventory that they have manufactured or processed in the past five years. For chemical substances on the confidential Inventory, manufacturers and processors would have to reaffirm (but not resubstantiate) that the identities continue to be confidential. If no one were to reaffirm that a chemical substance on the confidential Inventory was still confidential, EPA could make that identity public. EPA would publish the list of active substances (or generic names of confidential active substances). With few exceptions, EPA would prioritize only active substances.
9. Confidential Business Information (CBI)
CBI would be protected from disclosure if certain requirements were met. Like the SCA, the CSIA would identify categories of information likely to be eligible for CBI protection or likely not to be eligible for CBI protection. New CBI claims would have to be substantiated. In most cases, previous CBI claims would not need to be resubstantiated.
Chemical identities could be protected as CBI, even if present in health and safety studies. Additional substantiation would be required, and a structurally-descriptive generic name would have to be made public. Chemical identities could be disclosed under prescribed circumstances, such as in a medical emergency.
Instead of setting fixed time periods for CBI protection, as under the SCA, the CSIA would allow CBI to be protected for the time period requested by the submitter, except where the submitter either withdrew the CBI claim or EPA otherwise learned that the claim could no longer be substantiated. In most cases, before releasing CBI publicly, EPA would have to notify the submitter and afford an opportunity to seek a court order barring release.
Whereas the SCA would have allowed for virtually no preemption of state or local requirements, the CSIA would expand the preemptive effect of EPA actions as compared with current TSCA.
EPA testing requirements would continue to preempt new or existing state or local testing requirements. With limited exceptions, EPA rules, orders, and consent agreements under sections 5 or 6 for a chemical substance would preempt new or existing state or local restrictions or bans on the manufacture, processing, distribution in commerce, or use of that substance, as would a completed safety determination for the substance.
New state or local restrictions on the manufacture, processing, distribution in commerce, or use of a chemical substance would be preempted by EPA’s classification of a chemical substance as a high-priority substance or a low-priority substance.
State and local provisions relating to disposal of chemical substances, such as environmental monitoring requirements, generally would not be preempted.
A state or locality could seek a waiver of preemption if it could meet prescribed criteria. Waiver applications would be subject to notice and opportunity for comment, and waivers could be appealed to the D.C. Circuit.
11. Exports and Imports
Export notifications would only be required for chemical substances that EPA found under section 5 not to be likely to meet the safety standard under the intended conditions of use, or that a safety determination had found not to meet the safety standard under the intended conditions of use, or for which the U.S. was required by treaty to provide export notification. The latter provision refers to treaties which the U.S. has not yet ratified, such as the PIC and POPs Conventions.
Import certifications would be similar to those today, but would also require notification that an imported chemical substance was a high-priority substance or a substance for which the U.S. was required by treaty to provide export notification.
Prospects for Passage
No hearings on the CSIA have been announced, nor has a schedule for consideration been established. These are early days; some senators may still be evaluating the bill (for example, the Chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee, Senator Barbara Boxer, has not yet indicated whether she will support the bill).
Still, this bipartisan bill has fundamentally changed the prospects for passage of TSCA legislation in this Congress, which had been dim. It has effectively stopped any consideration of the SCA as a viable bill, although the SCA will serve as a touchstone for Democrats in evaluating whether to support amendments to the CSIA.
The House of Representatives remains unlikely to initiate its own TSCA legislation. However, if the Senate were to pass the CSIA with a large majority, including many Republicans, the House leadership would be likely to bring a companion bill up for consideration.
Some NGOs (e.g., the Environmental Working Group) have already announced their opposition to the bill, although others are taking a pragmatic approach of considering the CSIA as the best bill that has a realistic chance of passage.
Some Democrats are likely to seek to amend the CSIA, such as by adding statutory deadlines. Some Republicans may also want changes. Given that less than six months of the 113th Congress have passed, there is time for the Senate to consider the bill thoroughly, pass it or an amended version, and still have the House agree to what the Senate had passed. Another scenario, less likely but still possible with this breakthrough, is that both Houses would consider and pass the legislation within a short time. That is what happened with the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 and the Food Quality Protection Act of 1996. One thing is certain: it is important to stay tuned, because TSCA has suddenly become a hot topic on Capitol Hill.
 Chemical Safety Improvement Act, available at www.bdlaw.com/assets/attachments/Chemical%20Safety%20Improvement%20Act.PDF.
 Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Press Release, “Senators Lautenberg And Vitter Reach Groundbreaking Agreement To Reform Nation's Chemical Laws; Bipartisan Legislation Would Protect Americans From Risks Posed By Exposure To Chemicals” (May 22, 2013), http://www.epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Minority.PressReleases&ContentRecord_id=ccf8cd45-e41f-28bd-0252-9984333f7335.
 Beveridge & Diamond, P.C., “‘Safe Chemicals Act,’ First TSCA Reform Bill of 113th Congress, Reintroduced” (Apr. 16, 2013), http://www.bdlaw.com/news-1462.html; see also Beveridge & Diamond, P.C., “TSCA Modernization Proposals in Congress: Recent History and Prospects” (Feb. 25, 2013), http://www.bdlaw.com/news-1447.html.
 Senator Lautenberg is listed as the sponsor. Democratic co-sponsors include Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Tom Udall (D-NM), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Tom Harkin (D-IA), and Patty Murray (D-WA).
 Senator Vitter is listed as a co-sponsor. Other Republican co-sponsors include Senators Mike Crapo (R-ID), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), James Inhofe (R-OK), Susan Collins (R-ME), Marco Rubio (R-FL), John Boozman (R-AR), John Hoeven (R-ND), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).
 Senators Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Joe Manchin (D-WV), and Mark Begich (D-AK).
 Democratic Senators Begich, Harkin, and Murray, and Republican Senator Murkowski.
 E.g., American Chemistry Council, Press Release, “ACC Commends Senators Lautenberg and Vitter for Bipartisan Leadership to Reform TSCA” (May 22, 2013), http://www.americanchemistry.com/Media/PressReleasesTranscripts/ACC-news-releases/ACC-Commends-Senators-Lautenberg-and-Vitter-for-Bipartisan-Leadership-to-Reform-TSCA.html/; American Cleaning Institute, Press Release, “Introduction of the Chemical Safety Improvement Act” (May 22, 2013), http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/05/22/aci-safety-act-reax-idUSnPNDC19227+1e0+PRN20130522.
 Environmental Defense Fund, Press Release, “A bipartisan path forward to reform U.S. chemical safety law; Hard-fought compromise legislation would better protect American families” (May 22, 2013), http://www.edf.org/news/bipartisan-path-forward-reform-us-chemical-safety-law. For a variety of NGO viewpoints, see Safer Chemicals Healthy Families blog, “Reactions to the bi-partisan Chemical Safety Improvement Act” (May 23, 2013), http://www.microsofttranslator.com/BV.aspx?ref=IE8Activity&a=http%3A%2F%2Fblog.saferchemicals.org%2F2013%2F05%2Finitial-reactions-to-the-bipartisan-chemical-improvement-safety-act.html.
 E.g., Environmental Working Group press release, “EWG President Ken Cook Weighs In On Senate Chemical Policy Reform Bill” (May 23, 2013), http://www.ewg.org/release/ewg-president-ken-cook-weighs-senate-chemical-policy-reform-bill.
 Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, “Top EPA Toxics Officials Under Obama & Bush Admins Hail Lautenberg-Vitter Bill to Reform Nation’s Chemical Laws” (May 23, 2013), http://www.epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Minority.PressReleases&ContentRecord_id=d2553c0f-beb5-e270-2971-ff2b84a06e88&Region_id=&Issue_id=.