As a part of their mission to strengthen state governments, the National Council of State Legislators hosted their annual Legislative Summit this week in Chicago. Given the recent federal action around TSCA reform, the summit could not have come at a more opportune time. During the event the American Chemistry Council’s (ACC) Vice-President of State Affairs Rudy Underwood joined Jim Jones, Assistant Administrator of EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, and John Linc Stine, Commissioner of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, to discuss the Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act (LCSA). This panel provided an opportunity for Mr. Underwood to discuss the benefits of a strong chemical manufacturing sector and the importance of a centralized national chemical regulatory system for state legislatures, consumers, and the business of chemistry.
The business of chemistry is a vital part of the nation’s economy—it’s a nearly $800 billion enterprise, employing 810,000 Americans and supporting an additional 6 million jobs. Additionally, more than 96 percent of all manufactured goods are touched by the business of chemistry, many of which are used daily by consumers.
ACC and our members’ top priority? Ensuring that our products are safe for their intended uses. Our members thoroughly test and analyze the products they produce, including thorough adherence to the Responsible Care® Product Safety Code, the chemical industry’s world-class environmental, health, safety, and security performance initiative that is mandatory for all ACC members. And don’t forget about the six primary federal agencies (EPA, FDA, OSHA, DOT, DHS, CPSC), which operate under more than a dozen federal laws and regulations, working to ensure the safety of chemicals. We work closely with these federal agencies, regulators, and other manufacturers to ensure that products sold in stores are safe for consumers and the environment.
Until recently, the nation’s primary chemical regulation, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), had not been updated since it enactment in 1976. The failure to update the law resulted in growing concerns that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was not properly regulating chemicals, leading to a patchwork of state chemical regulations and a continued decline in consumer’s confidence.
With concerns regarding TSCA growing stronger and stronger, a diverse group of elected officials from both parties, industry, environmental and health groups, unions, and animal rights activists worked together to plot a path forward to modernize TSCA. After many years of hard-fought compromise, President Obama signed the bipartisan Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act (LCSA) into law on June 22, 2016.
The new law builds on industry’s many testing and safety practices and will have meaningful impact on consumer confidence in the safety of chemicals. Under LCSA, EPA will be able to review chemicals in commerce more efficiently by prioritizing chemicals to ensure that the chemicals of greatest concern are subject to thorough risk evaluations, according to EPA’s Jones at the Legislative Summit. Under EPA’s risk evaluations, the Agency will only consider potential harm, uses, and exposures—not potential costs to industry. And vulnerable groups, such as infants, pregnant women, and the elderly, will be taken into consideration when reviewing chemicals for safety.
And that patchwork of state regulations that was difficult for chemical companies to navigate and consumers to understand? A major improvement now that the LCSA has struck a delicate, but clear, balance between state and federal regulations. LCSA creates a strong and uniform approach to the regulation of chemicals that will enable the free flow of interstate commerce, while protecting American families in all states. The new law also recognizes that state governments have an important role to play and that some states have already taken many steps to protect their citizens from the unsafe use of chemicals, as highlighted by Linc Stine during the Legislative Summit. Under the LCSA, EPA evaluations of more chemicals will lead to greater transparency about chemical properties and risks, increased certainty in how chemicals will be regulated, and greater confidence that chemicals are being used safely in the marketplace. State governments will no longer have to worry about investing scarce resources in complex chemical regulatory issues that are better managed by the federal government.
LCSA will have lasting and meaningful benefits for all American manufacturing, for American families, and for our nation’s standing as the world’s leading innovator. At the Summit Underwood stressed that businesses will be able to focus on creating innovative products, growing their business, and creating more good-paying jobs for hard working Americans. Consumers will be confident, knowing the products they buy and use daily are safe for their intended uses because there is one, centralized law regulating chemicals in commerce.
The NCSL Legislative Summit provided a valuable opportunity to discuss this new law, as well as next steps. Chemical product safety is an ever-evolving concern, and passage and enactment of this historic bipartisan law is just the beginning. We are committed to working with the federal government to ensure that LCSA implementation occurs as prescribed by Congress so that the new system protects Americans’ health and our environment, supports economic growth and American manufacturing, and promotes America’s role as the world’s leading innovator.