According to a newly released briefing on, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy is urging state environmental officials to seize a "window of opportunity" for pushing action on Senate legislation to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act, or TSCA, while vowing that the agency will take steps to clarify the Clean Water Act's (CWA) scope -- policy goals long sought by several states.
McCarthy said she generally wants to "reset" EPA's relationship with states, in line with a recent memo to agency staff in which McCarthy vowed to strengthen EPA-state partnerships. TSCA reform, CWA jurisdiction and climate policies are all key issues for Environmental Council of States, or ECOS, which represents state environmental agencies. The group has in recent years approved resolutions on the topics, including an Aug. 30, 2010, resolution that largely echoed an unsuccessful TSCA reform bill by the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) that among other things would put the burden on industry to ensure chemicals are safe before entering commerce.
Earlier this year, Lautenberg then introduced a revised TSCA reform bill crafted with Senate Environment & Public Works Committee (EPW) ranking member David Vitter (R-LA) and bipartisan support from several senators. But the measure has drawn stiff opposition from environmentalists and their supporters over provisions addressing the bill's safety standard, preemption of state requirements and other provisions. And EPW Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) says the bill, S. 1009, needs several major changes before she can endorse the legislation.
Republicans have warned that the revisions sought by Boxer and others concerned with the existing version of the bill -- including timeframes for EPA to act on dangerous chemicals and ensuring states are not preempted from regulating toxins -- could spark push-back from industry and GOP supporters of the bipartisan measure.
Despite uncertainty about when, or whether, EPW will take up the measure, McCarthy in her remarks to ECOS urged a legislative overhaul, calling TSCA "a broken statute that needs to be fixed."
While she did not specifically endorse the bipartisan Senate bill, McCarthy said, "We have a window of opportunity together that we should not lose." Pointing to the April explosion of a fertilizer plant in Texas that has renewed calls for some stricter EPA chemical safety rules, she added, "we need to work together, not only to address chemical safety in emergencies more effectively, but to look at the infrastructure of how we regulate chemicals."
Surface finishing industry organizations, including the American Coatings Association, ACA, are encouraging members to send letters to their senators to voice support of the Chemical Safety Improvement ACt of 2013. ACA members may consult ACA's TSCA Reform Web Portal for more information.

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