For Immediate Release - March 17, 2015

AG Healey Supports U.S. Senate Bill That Protects State Against Toxic Chemicals

Applauds Legislation Introduced by Senators Edward Markey and Barbara Boxer; Opposes Separate Bill that Strips State Authority to Protect Against Toxic Chemicals

BOSTON – Attorney General Maura Healey today applauded new legislation introduced by Senator Edward Markey (D-MA) and Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) that would preserve a state’s ability to adequately protect the public from the risks posed by dangerous toxic chemicals.

The bill to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 (TSCA), called the Alan Reinstein and Trevor Schaefer Toxic Chemical Protection Act, would preserve the authority of Massachusetts and other states to protect its citizens from the risks of toxic chemicals, while giving the United States Environmental Protection Agency better tools to act nationally to regulate toxics. 

“This important legislation will preserve our state’s ability to regulate dangerous toxics and protect public health,” AG Healey said. “I applaud Senator Markey and Senator Boxer for introducing this bill that will ensure that the Commonwealth can continue to be a leader in protecting our residents against the risks of toxic chemicals.”

The bill, introduced last Thursday, fully addresses the concerns that AG Healey raised in a letter she sent last week to Senator Markey, expressing her opposition to a separate toxics reform bill that was introduced earlier this month by Senators David Vitter (R-La.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.), known as the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act. That bill, Healey said, eliminates crucial state protections.

Adopted in 1976, 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 risks posed by toxic chemicals, and states have often taken the lead in acting to reduce those risks. Because of limitations in the statute, however, TSCA has largely failed to fulfill its purpose.

According to the letter AG Healey sent last week, the Vitter/Udall bill would strip states of the power to regulate toxic chemicals and enforce needed protections against toxic exposures. This would undermine the efforts of Massachusetts’ and other states’ public health and environmental agencies to do their important, and at times, groundbreaking work protecting citizens from potentially risky chemicals. The Boxer/Markey bill, in contrast, allows states to continue to work with the federal government to protect citizens from the risks associated with toxic chemicals.  In the nearly 40 years since TSCA was enacted, states have been regulating chemical safety, and the U.S. chemical industry has retained its leadership in chemicals research and manufacturing.

Massachusetts has long been recognized as a leader in toxics control regulation, and the preemption provisions in the Udall/Vitter bill could jeopardize the Commonwealth’s ability to continue to protect citizens from the potential risks posed by toxic chemicals. For example, the Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Act (MA TURA), enacted in 1989, requires Massachusetts companies that use large quantities of specific toxic chemicals to evaluate and plan for pollution prevention opportunities, implement them if practical, and measure and report their results on an annual basis. This has resulted in programs that have proven to save costs for Massachusetts businesses, while reducing exposure risks for the public.

Last year, the AG’s Office joined a coalition of states to oppose overbroad preemption provisions in previous incarnations of TSCA reform bills in the 113th Congress. In April 2014, the AG’s Office sent a letter urging leaders of the U.S. House of Representatives to ensure that those TSCA reform efforts, included in a draft bill called the Chemicals in Commerce Act, did not undermine crucial state protections.

In July 2013, the AG’s Office joined eight other states in expressing similar concerns about the Chemical Safety Improvement Act, a reform bill then pending in the Senate that also included preemption provisions that would prevent states from regulating toxics to protect their citizens.  

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