EPA’s Principles for Chemical Policy Reform: On the Right Track

 Today EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson announced the Obama Administration's "Essential Principles for Reform of Chemicals Management Legislation," (which means TSCA reform).  This is good news

EPA and the Administration have taken another step in the direction of making reform of our nation's premier law for managing the safety of chemicals one of its top environmental priorities.  That's a good thing, because the law has barely worked over the 33 years since it was enacted (some characterize TSCA as "badly broken" while others are more definitive, calling it a total failure).  

Principles of this kind are by nature general and EPA did not commit itself to any particular legislative language or specific approach for altering TSCA in what it announced today.  However, the written Principles themselves, and the accompanying comments made by Administrator Jackson make clear that some key elements need to be included in any approach that will meet with the Administration's approval.  These include:

  • Guaranteeing the public's right to know about the health and environmental impacts of chemicals used in commerce, including where they are used, and how people may be exposed;
  • Requiring that chemicals meet a safety standard that protects the public, including those sub-populations that are more vulnerable to the impacts of chemicals (like children), or are more heavily exposed (like workers and people living in particularly polluted areas);
  • Ensuring the agency has the authority it needs to take the actions necessary without delay to protect the public from unsafe chemicals; and the resources necessary to fulfill its obligations to fully implement the revised law.
  • Promoting safer alternatives to toxic chemicals and the development of Green Chemistry.

These are some of the key elements outlined in the Administration's Principles that correspond well with the platform articulated by NRDC and its coalition partners in the Safer Chemicals Healthy Families campaign.

In the classic reggae duet "Right Track," Hopeton Lewis and Phyllis Dillon, the Queen of Jamaican Soul, sing "if you want to be on the right track, you've got to move along with me.  You'll never, never be on the right track, until you move along with me." 

While EPA's Principles don't answer every question, or address every concern, they suggest that EPA and the Obama Administration are moving along the right track to support strong and meaningful TSCA reform legislation. 

 In the next few weeks the effort to reauthorize and thoroughly reform TSCA will begin in earnest when legislation is introduced in Congress by Senators Frank Lautenberg and Barbara Boxer, and Congressmen Bobby Rush and Henry Waxman.  It will be the job of NRDC, the Safer Chemicals Healthy Families campaign, and so many other health, environment, family, labor, religious and business-based organizations, as well as millions of American's to ensure that the Administration and Congress remain on the right track and enact a law that finally provides real protection for all Americans from unsafe chemicals.