Feldscher: Despite Anti-regulatory Fervor, TSCA Reforms Are Here to Stay

By Ed Rutkowski

Washington State Convention Center, Seattle, Wash. (June 5, 2017)—The unusual bipartisan support for last year’s update to the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) is likely to remain strong despite Republican opposition to most forms of government spending and President Trump’s proposal for severe cuts to the federal budget, said Neil Feldscher, CIH, CSP, FAIHA, yesterday at AIHce EXP 2017. Feldscher, an attorney who leads the industrial hygiene program for the New York City Department of the Environment, offered his optimistic assessment at an educational session that explained the impact of the 2016 Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act on EPA’s approach to risk assessment, risk management, confidential business information, and other areas of TSCA reform.

While President Trump’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2018 would decrease EPA’s overall funding by approximately 31 percent compared to 2017 levels, it provides for increased spending to implement reforms required by the Lautenberg Act. These reforms are the only line-item in the agency’s budget that would receive an increase under the president’s proposal.

Feldscher also cited new EPA administrator Scott Pruitt’s public support for TSCA reform and the agency’s progress toward meeting many of the ambitious deadlines in the Lautenberg Act as reasons why he believes the reform effort will survive despite the anti-regulatory stance of the Republican congressional majority.

“This is basically the same Congress that passed” the Lautenberg Act, Feldscher observed. “That’s another reason I don’t see [TSCA reform] going anywhere.”

The Lautenberg Act changed how EPA reviews new chemicals, requiring the agency to make an “affirmative finding” on the safety of a new chemical, or a significant new use of an existing chemical, before it goes to market, Feldscher explained. A chemical manufacturer must submit information to EPA indicating the chemical’s fate in the environment and the populations that will be exposed to it. EPA must then categorize the chemical as either a high-risk substance or a low-risk substance. Chemicals identified as high risk must undergo a full risk assessment by the agency, and the risk assessments must be completed within three years. For chemicals that present an “unreasonable risk,” EPA must propose a risk management plan, Feldscher said.

TSCA reform also changes the process manufacturers use to request exemption from the data submission requirements for chemicals. Previously, companies that claimed the data represented “confidential business information,” or CBI, were routinely granted exemptions. The Lautenberg Act requires companies to substantiate their CBI requests and limits the exemption to ten years.

Ed Rutkowski is editor in chief of The Synergist. He can be reached at (703) 846-0734.

View more Synergist coverage of the conference on the AIHce Daily page.