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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Proposed Amendments to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA):A Side-by-Side Comparison with Current Law

Linda-Jo Schierow
Specialist in Environmental Policy

The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) was signed in 1976 by President Gerald R. Ford. Thirty-five years of experience with TSCA implementation and enforcement have demonstrated the strengths and weaknesses of the law and led many to propose legislative changes to TSCA's core provisions. On April 15, 2010, Senator Lautenberg introduced comprehensive legislation (S. 3209) to amend TSCA Title I, and Representatives Waxman and Rush posted draft TSCA reform legislation on the home page of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. This report compares key provisions of S. 3209, as introduced, the House draft of April 16, 2010, and current law (15 U.S.C. 2601 et seq.). 

Both proposals would amend TSCA to shift the burden of demonstrating safety from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to manufacturers and processors of chemicals, and would prohibit manufacture, processing, and distribution of any chemical substance or mixture for which safety has not been demonstrated to EPA's satisfaction. Although they propose somewhat different safety standards for EPA to enforce, both proposals suggest a health-based standard. In contrast, current law requires that a chemical not pose "an unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment," and that regulation should control any unreasonable risk to the extent necessary using the "least burdensome" means of available control. This TSCA standard has been interpreted to require cost-benefit balancing. To facilitate safety assessment, the proposals would require data development and submission to EPA for all chemicals in commerce. TSCA amendments would direct EPA to target chemicals with particular characteristics (for example, persistence in the environment) for earlier evaluation and possible risk management. Any regulatory action would be expedited, for example, by allowing EPA to issue orders rather than rules. 

The proposals differ in many details and in several noteworthy ways. For example, for all existing chemicals that have not been placed on a priority list, data sets must be submitted within 14 years of the date of enactment of S. 3209, but within five years of enactment of the House draft. The proposals also treat the identification of chemicals of highest concern differently. The House draft directs EPA to expedite action for 31 specified chemicals and chemical groups, while S. 3209 leaves identification of such chemicals to the Administrator's discretion. These and other provisions of the two legislative proposals are compared with current law in Tables 1 through 6

Date of Report: July 28, 2010
Number of Pages: 60
Order Number: R41335
Price: $29.95

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