The American Coatings Association, ACA, along with more than 65 other organizations belonging to the American Alliance for Innovation (AAI) on Aug. 21 sent a letter to members of the U.S. Senate, urging true bipartisan collaboration to draft a new bill to replace the current version of the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011.

The letter comes in response to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee’s passage of S.B. 847 in a 10-8 vote along party lines on July 25. Unfortunately, the committee leadership chose to move forward with a bill that did not reflect the input of the Republican Senators or many of the stakeholders on all the very complex issues involved in Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

S.B. 847, The Safe Chemicals Act of 2011, was introduced in April 2011 by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and aims to overhaul TSCA, a 35-year old statute that has served to regulate the chemical industry into the modern era. The Safe Chemicals Act of 2011 would give the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) enhanced authority to manage chemicals, and increase chemical manufacturer and processor obligations to provide EPA with toxicity and use information through new risk-based safety standards. ACA has numerous concerns about the current version of the legislation.

Prior to the bill hearing and markup, four Republican senators on the committee — Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID) — sent Sen. Lautenberg a letter noting the lack of real bipartisan collaboration in moving forward with the amendments and markup. The most recent round of negotiations on the Safe Chemicals Act among Republican and Democratic staff began in mid-June, and the Senators’ letter noted that the bi-partisan process was supposed to include starting over with a brand new bill that had greater bipartisan support. However, the committee accelerated action on the bill over Republican dissent, including amendments that don’t do much to make it more reasonable for industry.

The letter stated that “attempts have been made to characterize the current version of S. 847 as a compromise bill that could gain the support of Republicans and industry. For our industries, this is not the case for the bill in its current form. We wholeheartedly support the continuation of a bipartisan process to discuss the right concepts needed in legislation to effectively reform the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate chemicals. We believe that S. 847 as reported by the EPW Committee does not accomplish this goal.”

The Republican Senators, led by Senator Vitter, have signaled that they will continue to develop sound, science and risk-based legislation to update TSCA, and will work with members of the Democratic caucus on new legislation. ACA pledged its readiness to support efforts to create such a bipartisan bill so “we can all benefit from a successful and efficient chemical regulatory system that protects American families and our nation’s ability to innovate, compete, and grow.”

ACA believes that stakeholder involvement in the modernization of TSCA is imperative. Throughout the discussion on TSCA modernization, ACA has employed an outreach campaign on the scope and application of such reform. ACA believes that a legislative approach for chemicals management must ensure appropriate action on the part of the regulatory agency and the regulated community, and, in particular, be based on sound science and protective of health and the environment. Note: there is no companion bill in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

ACA remains active in AAI, a coalition of 100 industry associations interested in TSCA modernization. ACA and AAI will continue to remain engaged in the dialogue on TSCA modernization, including the need for federal preemption in the next version of TSCA.

Contact ACA’s Stacey-Ann Taylor or Steve Sides for more information.