For Immediate Release - April 17, 2014

AG Coakley Opposes U.S. House Bill That Eliminates State Protections Against Toxic Chemicals

Multistate Letter to U.S. House Strongly Opposes Draft Legislation that Strips State Authority to Protect the Public from Chemical Hazards

BOSTON – Concerned that proposed legislation could eliminate a state’s ability to protect the public from dangerous toxic chemicals, Attorney General Martha Coakley joined a coalition of states in sending a letter today urging leaders of the U.S. House of Representatives to ensure that current reform efforts do not undermine crucial state regulations.

In the multistate letter sent today to U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy, AG Coakley and 12 other attorneys general address the draft bill known as the Chemicals in Commerce Act, presented by Representative John Shimkus (R-IL), and object to the sweeping preemption language it proposes for the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). According to the letter, the proposed bill would strip states of the power to regulate toxic chemicals and enforce needed protections against toxic exposures.

“Our federal toxics law is more than 35 years old and in obvious need of reform to ensure that our citizens, particularly those most vulnerable, are protected,” AG Coakley said.  “While I applaud the ongoing bipartisan efforts in Congress to modernize the TSCA, the ability of individual states to protect the public must not be sacrificed in the process.” 

Adopted in 1976, the TSCA is the statute governing national chemicals policy and sets federal restrictions on the manufacture and use of chemicals that present an unacceptable risk of harm to public health and the environment. Currently, the federal law allows both the federal government and the states to address toxic chemicals, and states have often taken the lead in acting to reduce toxic risks to citizens and the environment. Because of limitations in the statute, TSCA has largely failed to fulfill its purpose, resulting in a continued risk of exposure to potentially hazardous chemicals on an ongoing basis.

The AG coalition’s letter offers assistance in crafting legislation that helps TSCA meet its goal of regulating dangerous substances, while preserving the traditional and critical role of states in protecting health and welfare within their boundaries.

Specifically, the AG’s letter objects to the provisions in the proposed Chemicals in Commerce Act that:

  • Preempt state and local requirements regardless of whether they already existed before the law was enacted or before the EPA acted under the law;
  • Prevent states from establishing or continuing to enforce any state regulation of chemicals once the EPA has made an initial safety determination with respect to that chemical, even before any final agency action, including prohibiting states from imposing stricter standards than provided by federal regulation; and
  • Prevent states from even seeking information about a toxic chemical from a company once EPA has made a safety determination with respect to that chemical.

In July 2013, AG Coakley joined eight other states in expressing similar concerns about the Chemical Safety Improvement Act, a bipartisan reform bill currently pending in the Senate. According to the letter, the preemption provisions of the new draft bill cast an even broader net than the language proposed in the Chemical Safety Improvement Act.

The AG’s Office joins the multistate coalition, led by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, with the following states: California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington.

Assistant Attorney General Andrew Goldberg of Coakley’s Environmental Protection Division is handling the matter for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

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