After years of effort, Congress adopted changes to the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act on Tuesday, and the bill now heads to the president who is expected to sign it. The bill was temporarily held up just before the Memorial Day holiday by Kentucky U.S. Sen. Rand Paul who wanted more time to review the legislation and consider the changes. After urging from the Kentucky Chamber and other business groups, Senator Paul lifted his hold on the bill Monday, allowing it to pass on unanimous consent.
The 200-plus page bill takes technological and scientific advancements into consideration and limits the role of states in setting requirements. For example, an important provision of the law prohibits a state from setting requirements for a chemical if the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has already determined the chemical does not pose an unreasonable level of risk of injury or health to the public or the environment.
The bill also requires the EPA to promulgate a rule within a year to set a process for designating a chemical as high or low priority. High priority substances would then be subject to further evaluation of risk. In determining priority, the EPA would consider many factors including the volume of the substance produced and processed.
“It will look out for public safety, enhance transparency, and help support manufacturing and our economy,” Kentucky U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell said in a statement about the legislation.
Passage of the bill is a win for industry because it replaces a patchwork of state rules and requirements with a unified process established in regulation for overseeing the safety of tens of thousands of chemical substances. The bill had bi-partisan support in Congress and is supported by numerous business and environmental organizations.