Posted: June 19, 2013


Senate environment committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) says the bipartisan bill reforming the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), sponsored by Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) and the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), has no chance of passage without a significant overhaul, casting doubt on the measure’s prospects.


The bill, S. 1009, introduced May 22 by Vitter and Lautenberg, “would not have a chance” of passage without considerable changes, Boxer told a June 19 press conference, citing strong criticisms from environmental groups, health advocates and California officials.


Boxer’s comments follow weeks of uncertainty over how she will proceed on TSCA reform — as the committee’s chair, she needs to give her consent for the bill to move forward — amid growing concerns from California officials, environmentalists and health advocacy groups that S. 1009 would preempt the state’s landmark product labeling and green chemistry laws, among other issues.


However, Boxer told reporters that she would not support the bill’s strict preemption language, arguing that TSCA reform efforts should set a minimum standard for chemical safety and that states should be able to enact their own protections beyond that level should they choose, as was called for in S. 696, a TSCA reform bill that she and Lautenberg introduced in April. That bill has garnered more support than the bipartisan measure, albeit only from Democrats.


While industry, which is strongly opposed to S. 696, is supporting the bipartisan bill, thus far only one environmental group — the Environmental Defense Fund — has lent its backing. “I will be honest with you: this is the most opposition I’ve ever seen to any bill introduced in this committee,” Boxer said.


“To me, to make sure we get a good bill, to make sure we protect the people Sen. Lautenberg fought so hard to protect, we want to get a really good bill. And we don’t want to have the very people you are trying to protect . . . oppose it,” she added.


In light of her concerns, Boxer reiterated her earlier statements that she plans to amend the bipartisan bill based on provisions that she andLautenberg had agreed on in S. 696. She also said she hopes to include provisions from other relevant bills, including S. 50, a bill she has introduced with Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID) that gives EPA new authority to investigate disease clusters, and S. 1124, a bill that requires labeling for food packaging containing bisphenol-A.


“The best way to move forward is to take [Lautenberg’s] two bills . . . and others, and take a look at all of those different bills and have panels to address all of those different bills and write a chairman’s mark of all those bills,” Boxer said.


She said she plans to introduce a chairman’s markup “promptly” after a scheduled July 31 hearing on the issue, and told reporters that Vitter, the committee’s ranking Republican, has agreed to the plan to hold hearings on the bills in an effort to seek consensus. “What I want to do is get a consensus bill that everyone can get behind — and I think I’m good at that,” she added.


Committee Agenda


In addition to TSCA reform, the senate environment committee is slated in the coming months to host hearings and conduct oversight on a slew of issues. On June 27, the committee will hold an oversight hearing on the explosion earlier this year of a fertilizer plant is West, TX, which the chairman warned may result in the panel looking at policies governing such facilities.


That hearing will be followed in July by a session on climate change impacts and the carbon fee bill, which Boxer said is an effort independent of what the president does on climate change. “Everything is on the table when it comes to climate change,” she said of the options the committee may consider.


In September, the committee will review the Superfund programs’ oversight on lead and children’s health issues. The following month, the committee will host a hearing on federal facility cleanups and how to improve energy efficiency at federal buildings.