For Immediate Release - December 18, 2015

AG Healey Lauds Senate Passage of Toxic Chemicals Bill

AG Healey Leading Multistate Effort to Protect State Authority Over Toxic Chemicals

BOSTON —Attorney General Maura Healey today thanked the US Senate for passing legislation aimed at reducing the presence of toxic chemicals. The Senate passed the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act Thursday.

“The Senate’s passage of this bill is a landmark event toward final legislation that will help protect the public from risky chemicals. We support and appreciate the ongoing bipartisan efforts in Congress to modernize TSCA, and I thank Sen. Markey for his efforts to help improve the Senate bill, including his continued commitment to preserving state authority to regulate toxic chemicals. As TSCA reform moves toward President Obama’s desk, the final legislation must not compromise any state’s ability to address the risks of toxic chemicals on its own. We will continue to work closely with our state partners to pursue a final bill that maintains the traditional state-federal partnership that protects the public.” 

In June, the House of Representatives passed its own version of the legislation. Both bills would reform the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 (TSCA).

Adopted in 1976, TSCA sets federal restrictions on the manufacture and use of chemicals that present an unacceptable risk of harm to public health and the environment. Because of limitations in the statute, however, TSCA has largely failed to fulfill its purpose and Congress is working to reform the statute.

Currently, the federal law allows both state and federal governments to address risks from toxic chemicals, and states have often taken the lead in acting to reduce risks.

Separate reform bills have passed both the House and the Senate (H.R. 2576 and S. 697) and now must be reconciled into a single piece of legislation.

In a letter to Sen. Markey, AG Healey raised concerns that the Senate bill as introduced 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 to protect public health and environmental agencies to do their important, and at times, groundbreaking work protecting citizens from potentially risky chemicals. The letter suggested that a better bill would allow states to continue to work with the federal government to protect against the risks associated with toxic chemicals.  The version of the bill that passed today addresses some of those concerns, including allowing the states to enforce federal requirements.

In May, AG Healey led a 12 state coalition (along with California, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington) expressing similar concerns with the preemption provisions in the House bill.

Last year, the AG’s Office joined a coalition of states to oppose overbroad preemption provisions in previous incarnations of the TSCA reform efforts, and in April and June 2014, the AG’s Office joined a coalition of states in sending a letter urging House leaders to ensure that those efforts included in a draft bill called the Chemicals in Commerce Act did not undermine crucial state regulations.

In July 2013, the AG’s Office joined eight other states in expressing 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.  

The AG’s Office is continuing to work with our state partners to maximize the extent to which states will be able to continue to protect the public against risky chemicals under any new TSCA law.

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