US Congress Passes Landmark TSCA Reform Legislation

    View Author June 2016

    On June 7, 2016 the US Congress passed the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, the landmark bipartisan, compromise legislation to overhaul the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The Lautenberg Act is expected to be signed into law by President Obama very soon. 

    As passed by Congress, the Lautenberg Act makes many significant changes to the current TSCA law, including: requiring EPA to evaluate chemicals (both new and existing chemicals) to determine whether they present an “unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment under the conditions of use”; prohibiting EPA from considering costs or other non-risks factors in chemical evaluations and requiring EPA to consider potentially exposed or susceptible subpopulations in the evaluations; allowing chemical manufacturers to ask EPA to evaluate a chemical; giving EPA authority to issue administrative orders to require testing of chemicals; requiring EPA to reduce the use of vertebrate animals in testing; eliminating the “least burdensome” requirement for chemical regulations, making it easier for EPA to restrict – or ban – chemicals; preempting state chemical regulations under certain conditions; putting limits on confidential business information (CBI) claims and allowing EPA to share CBI with states; and allowing EPA to charge higher fees for chemical reviews. 

    Because the Lautenberg Act makes so many significant changes to the current TSCA statute, EPA’s actions to interpret and implement the numerous new provisions and requirements in the Act will be critically important – especially during the next one to two years. EPA must develop and issue a number of policies, procedures, guidance documents and formal rulemakings during this time, as well as begin to develop early lists of existing chemicals for prioritization and risk evaluation, collect data on chemicals and initiate the risk evaluations. Moreover, EPA must begin to give greater scrutiny to PMNs for all new chemicals (and SNUNs for new uses of existing chemicals) and evaluate them for safety under their conditions of use, require more testing of chemicals, and take stronger action on chemicals that EPA determines present an unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment. The impacts of EPA’s actions under the Lautenberg Act on the manufacture, import, processing, distribution and use of chemicals – and products containing chemicals – in the US will be significant and far-reaching.