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Key US House Democrats voice concerns with the CSIA

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Two Democratic Congressmen on the House Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy have said they would have a hard time supporting a House Toxic Substances Control Act reform measure that closely resembles the Senate’s Chemical Safety Improvement Act (CSIA).

Subcommittee Chairman John Shimkus (Republican-Illinois) plans to introduce a House TSCA reform bill that he hopes to get through committee this spring (CW 12 February 2014). And although his office has not revealed the TSCA sections the bill would cover, many in the chemicals industry expect it to resemble the CSIA in many areas, including state preemption and confidential business information protection. Mr Shimkus is expected to unveil a draft bill on Thursday.

However, Representative Henry Waxman (Democrat-California), who is the ranking member of the full House Energy and Commerce Committee,  does not support the CSIA in its current form. “The legislation is strongly supported by the chemical industry, but the public interest community has grave concerns that it would actually be less protective of public health than the current law.”

One of the issues that Mr Waxman has with the CSIA is its proposed “tiered high priority-low priority approach” that the EPA would take in carrying out risk assessments. A determination that a chemical is a low priority is “essentially a finding that the chemical is so safe that no additional work is allowed to take place on the chemical at the state or federal level,” he says, adding that the CSIA would force the agency to make such determinations without adequate information.

Congressman Gene Green (Democrat-Texas) says it would be difficult for him to support a measure that is akin to the CSIA, although the bill has garnered bipartisan support in the Senate. He believes that the shortcomings in the measure could be fixed, and hopes the House version would address “some of the criticisms” levelled against the CSIA, On the thorny issue of state preemption, Mr Green is confident that the House can draft language that addresses concerns of states like California, and still come up with a nationwide standard to help states that do not have the resources to draft their own laws. “It is going to take some creative draftsmanship,” he says.

Meanwhile, efforts by CSIA co-sponsors David Vitter (Republican-Louisiana) and Tom Udall (Democrat-New Mexico) to make changes to the bill so that it addresses concerns raised by Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (Democrat-California), and NGOs, are proceeding “smoothly,” says a congressional aide close to the process. The CSIA has been languishing in the committee since last August, when Ms Boxer, who has voiced serious concerns with state preemption and some other provisions of the measure, held a hearing.

Mr Udall has said that “significant changes are happening” to the CSIA with senators working with stakeholders to “strengthen and improve this key bipartisan bill. He hopes to “publicly circulate an updated version” soon that can garner broad support in the Senate, including from Ms Boxer.

Dinesh Kumar

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