Legal Experts: Supreme Court Decision on Mercury Pollution Could Undercut Chemical Reform
Originally published on EnviroBlog by Thomas Cluderay, general counsel, and Melanie Benesh, legislative attorney, for the Environmental Working Group.
You might think you can’t put a price on protecting public health and the environment. But you’d be wrong – especially if we’re talking about the nation's broken and outdated chemicals law, the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act, or TSCA.
We’ve written a lot about how the House and Senate are working to amend this defective law (here, here and here) through negotiations to reconcile language in their respective TSCA reform bills.
A critically important issue still under discussion is to what extent the Environmental Protection Agency must consider economic costs as part of its decisions on regulating chemicals. In practice the requirement that EPA balance costs and benefits translates into serious delays – if action at all – when it comes to protecting people and the environment from toxic chemicals. This onerous requirement most notoriously blocked the EPA's efforts to ban asbestos, even in the face of abundant evidence that it is a deadly carcinogen.
Although both the House and Senate bills attempt to minimize considerations of regulatory costs, those efforts could be undermined by the 2015 Supreme Court decision Michigan v. EPA, which stymied EPA’s regulations of mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants.
That's why more than 30 leading legal scholars and public interest lawyers wrote to Congress today (March 31) to urge lawmakers
More Delay for OSHA's New Silica Rule
by Katie Tracy | February 24, 2016
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has informally announced that it is unlikely to finalize its long-awaited rule to limit workers' exposure to respirable crystalline silica by the month's end, as the agency had expected. OSHA's deputy assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, Jordan Barab, told Politico on Friday, Feb. 18, that he "can pretty much guarantee" the rule will be delayed, but he expects "it will be out soon." The silica rule, which OSHA proposed
CPR's Sachs and Shudtz in The Hill: Toxic Ignorance and the Challenge for Congress
Earlier this week, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 2576, an update to the long-outdated Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which governs regulation of toxic chemicals. CPR Member Scholar and University of Richmond Law School professor Noah Sachs and CPR Executive Director Matthew Shudtz wrote a piece for The Hill, highlighting some crucial problems with the bill the House passed. They note: Both bills, for example, require EPA to move through the backlog of untested chemicals and make safety determinations. A safety determination is
House Bipartisanship Throws Up Pitifully Weak Toxic Chemicals Control Act Bill
Anyone who cares about the development of sound public policy has grown distraught over congressional gridlock. The House and Senate are dysfunctional to an extent not seen in modern times. Neither is able to develop bipartisan legislation to deal with a slew of urgent social problems, from immigration and the minimum wage to the strengthening of outdated health and safety laws. But the kneejerk glee that accompanies any bipartisan action regardless of content is just as dangerous. Take, for example,
CPR Scholars Call on Senators to Enact Meaningful Reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act
What’s old is new again. This week, competing bills to reform the 40-year old Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) hit the Senate—one from Senators Vitter and Udall, the other from Senators Boxer and Markey. Both the environmental community and the chemical industry agree that TSCA is broken and must be fixed. This is a law that’s so poorly designed; EPA has been stymied in its efforts to ban asbestos. Yes, that asbestos. But where environmentalists and the chemical industry diverge is on the
Statement of CPR Executive Director Matt Shudtz on OSHA's Call for Dialogue on Chemical Exposure
Today, OSHA announced that it is seeking new ideas from stakeholders about preventing workplace injuries caused by exposure to harmful chemicals. The agency wants to identify new ways to develop Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs), the basic standards for reducing air contaminants. CPR's Executive Director Matthew Shudtz responded to the development: It’s great that Dr. Michaels is continuing to seek new ways to eliminate or manage chemical hazards in the workplace. OSHA has been relying on outdated standards for too long. But rulemaking is not
Remedying Toxic Exposures: Will CERCLA Continue to Help?
On Monday, June 9, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court decided CTS Corp. v. Waldburger, --- U.S. ---, --- S. Ct. ---, 2014 WL 2560466 (June 9, 2014), a case that posed the seemingly simple legal question of whether the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (“CERCLA,” also known as Superfund), 42 U.S.C. §§ 9601-9675, preempts state statues of repose. Behind that legal question, however, lies the issue of whether the plaintiffs landowners do or should have a state-law
New NAS report breathes life into EPA’s IRIS program
The National Academies’ National Research Council released its long-awaited report on IRIS this week, and the results are good for EPA. The report praises the IRIS program and its leadership, including Drs. Olden and Cogliano, for making great strides to improve how IRIS assessments are developed. To get a real appreciation for how positive this report is, it’s important to put it in context. In 2011, a different NAS/NRC committee led by the same chairperson went out of its way
Testimony of CPR's Wagner for House Hearing on new TSCA bill today focuses on impact to EPA's use of science
by Erin Kesler | November 13, 2013
Today, Center for Progressive Reform Member Scholar and law professor at the University of Texas School of Law, Wendy Wagner will testify at a House Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment Hearing entitled, "S. 1009, Chemical Safety Improvement Act." Wagner's testimony can be read in full here. According to her testimony: My testimony will focus on the various good science provisions in S.1009 and how they are likely to impact EPA’s use of science. I will make the following points
Roll Call: Toxics Control Bill Will Handcuff EPA
by Erin Kesler | September 13, 2013
Earlier this week, Roll Call published an op-ed by CPR Scholars Thomas O. McGarity and Wendy Wagner entitled, "Toxics Control Bill Will Handcuff EPA." The piece concludes: In our decades of research and writing on tort law and environmental regulation, we have never seen a pre-emption provision that intrudes more deeply into the civil litigation system at the state level than the one in this bill. If victims of toxic chemical exposure attempt to recover damages at the state level, their cases
Chemical Safety Board Introduces a Most Wanted List of Reforms to Protect Workers
The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, better known as CSB, is held a meeting today to discuss several recommendations and a newly created “Most Wanted Program.” CSB has invited public input, so CPR President Rena Steinzor and I submitted comments to CSB yesterday, urging the agency to target the White House in its advocacy efforts related to the Most Wanted Program. CSB has numerous recommendations that it considers “open” because the target of those recommendations, be it OSHA, another
The Atrazine Debate in Perspective
CPR Member Scholar Frank Ackerman had an op-ed in the Des Moines Register the other day, "Atrazine ban would not ruin the Corn Belt." The chemical in question is a weed-killer, and also a known endocrine disruptor. The Bush Administration's EPA determined that atrazine does not cause negative effects to human health. The Obama Administration's EPA is currently conducting a review of that assessment (stay tuned). Ackerman responds to arguments that banning atrazine would cause huge economic harm, writing: How
Lautenberg's TSCA Bill is Up; Initial Reactions From Advocates
Senator Frank Lautenberg today released the "Safe Chemicals Act of 2010 ” -- a bill to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act. Representatives Rush and Waxman released a discussion draft of related legislation in the House. Here are reactions from Environmental Defense Fund, Environmental Working Group, Natural Resources Defence Council, and Safer Chemicals, Healthy Familes coalition. We'll have more on this in the coming days.
The BPA Backlash
The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported on Saturday, and the Washington Post on Sunday, about a meeting of industry groups in Washington last week to devise a plan to respond to criticisms of Bisphenol A (BPA). From the Post: Manufacturers of cans for beverages and foods and some of their biggest customers, including Coca-Cola, are trying to devise a public relations and lobbying strategy to block government bans of a controversial chemical used in the linings of metal cans and lids. The