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W.Va Spill Sparks Calls for TSCA Reform

Henry WaxmanThe lack of toxicity data on chemicals spilled into West Virginia drinking water last month demonstrates the need to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act, congressmen have argued – and the chemical industry is also pushing for changes.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA – pictured, in a file photo), ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, said state officials could not find meaningful health and safety data on the chemicals spilled by Freedom Industries, Bloomberg BNA reports.

He was speaking at the environment and economy subcommittee’s fifth hearing on TSCA this Congress. The latest session addressed Sections 4 and 8, which authorize the EPA to mandate new testing and disclosure of existing data.

American Fuel & Petrochemicals Manufacturers president Charles Drevna criticized an “irrational” requirement under TSCA: that the EPA must prove a chemical poses an unreasonable risk before it can require needed testing – which is itself needed to show the risk.

Drevna and Boron Specialties president Beth Bosley, who testified on behalf of the Society of Chemical Manufacturers & Affiliates, both said legislators should direct the EPA to use a step-wise approach to prioritize data collection.

A major problem of Section 4 is that it requires the EPA to issue regulations to obtain data, a process that frequently takes years, Bosley said. Instead, she said TSCA should give the EPA authority to order data submissions.

During the hearing IPC’s Brent Grazman also told the subcommittee that EPA’s implementation of Section 8 has actually discouraged recycling.

Companies including Patagonia, Stonyfield Farm and Method have urged TSCA reform.

Congress has been discussing TSCA in earnest since May 2013, when Senators David Vitter (R-LA) and the late Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) introduced the Chemical Safety Improvement Act, S. 1009. If approved, it would modernize the core of TSCA for the first time since its inception in 1976.

Meanwhile at a Senate Environment and Public Works subcommittee hearing on the West Virginia spill, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) said TSCA must be changed, stricter storage standards introduced and inspections made more frequently to reduce the chances of such contamination occurring again.

The spill cost businesses $61 million, according to a preliminary economic impact study by the Marshall University Center for Business and Economic Research, and left more than 300,000 residents without drinkable tap water for several days. (Some doctors are still advising vulnerable patients not to drink the water, though federal officials say it is safe.)

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