Senate’s Toxic Chemicals Bill Needs Changes in Conference to Merit Support

WASHINGTON (December 17, 2015) – The Senate late today passed a flawed bill to overhaul the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), a 1976 law that has failed to adequately protect the public from toxic chemicals and has never been updated. The House passed its own bill on TSCA in June.

The following is a statement by Daniel Rosenberg, senior attorney in the Health and Environment Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council:

“Although the Senate bill has improved over time, it still has significant flaws that must be fixed in conference. As the bill moves forward, Congress should ensure that the final legislation marries the best aspects of the Senate and House bills and drops the worst. 

“We particularly appreciate the efforts of Senator Whitehouse to ensure that last-minute provisions on mercury will protect, and not harm, public health.”

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) added language that would strengthen the 2008 Mercury Export Ban Act, and require a national inventory of mercury production and use, which will facilitate further domestic mercury reductions.


Among the changes that are needed, Congress should eliminate language in the Senate bill (that is not in the House measure) that:

  • prevents states from protecting their citizens before the federal government has taken action on a chemical;
  • makes it harder for the Environmental Protection Agency to protect citizens from – or to even know about – potentially dangerous chemicals contained in imported products;
  • weakens the ability of citizens to appeal EPA’s rejection of a petition for action under TSCA; and
  • creates a “prioritization” loophole that allows EPA to effectively declare chemicals safe without an adequate review. 

In the House bill, Congress should eliminate language (that is not in the Senate measure) that:

  • allows industry to set the agenda for which chemicals to assess;
  • prevents enforcement of the requirement that EPA select chemicals to evaluate;
  • could make it difficult for EPA to successfully defend regulation of chemicals in court; and,
  • obscures limitations on state authority.



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