Following last week's House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on reforming chemical safety policy, what are the prospects for moving legislation this year? During today's OnPoint, Cal Dooley, president of the American Chemistry Council, weighs in on key sticking points, including U.S. EPA's authority, and talks about potential areas for negotiation.
Monica Trauzzi: Hello and welcome to OnPoint. I'm Monica Trauzzi. Joining me today is Cal Dooley, president of the American Chemistry Council. Cal, thanks for coming back on the show.
Cal Dooley: Thank you, Monica, and glad to be here.
Monica Trauzzi: Cal, a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing last week considered the Senate's "Chemical Safety Improvement Act" for the first time, and there's a real diverse group of supporters here to reform the 1976 TSCA law. Why do you believe that is? Why is there so much support?
Cal Dooley: Well, I think a lot of the work has been done over a number of years, let by Senator Lautenberg originally and then just earlier this year being joined by Senator Vitter really for the first time created a bipartisan effort to reform TSCA, something that hasn't happened in 30 years, really. And so the hearing that we had last week was another important development in moving TSCA reform forward, and I was just delighted that you had Senator Udall, who's picked up the mantle for Senator Lautenberg on the Democrat side, came over with Senator Vitter and they testified, again demonstrating that there's bipartisan support for balanced, comprehensive TSCA reform.
Monica Trauzzi: EPA says it needs more authority, and this is a sticking point. And during the hearing why did you say that there are misunderstandings relating to some of the issues that have been raised about the scope of the Senate bill?
Cal Dooley: Well, I think when we look at the bill and our interpretation - and I think it's the interpretation that Senator Lautenberg and Udall and Vitter intended, is that it gives EPA broad authority to address some of the challenges they've had in the past and that EPA has had in the past to accessing the data they need to make a determination on the safety of the chemical. And the bill for the first time, this bipartisan bill, will ensure that the maybe 60,000 chemicals that were grandfathered in under the original TSCA that haven't been subject to a safety assessment will now be required and will allow EPA to do a safety assessment. And, furthermore, this legislation will allow EPA to have the authority to order chemical companies to provide the data that they need in order to make an affirmative decision, again, empowering EPA for the first time to make an affirmative decision that those chemicals are safe for their intended use.
Monica Trauzzi: And, on this point, last month ranking member Waxman sent you a letter questioning a possible retreat from a set of standards that ACC had established in 2009, standards that would help pave the way to a bipartisan negotiation. Are you committed to sticking to those principles, ten principles, including EPA's ability to require companies to provide data?
Cal Dooley: Absolutely, and our principles, as well as EPA's principles, as well as the principles of the Environmental Defense Fund that we all offered for TSCA reform are all embodied in concept and in practice in this bipartisan legislation. It's unfortunate that the letter that Senator Waxman sent, or Congressman Waxman sent to me saying that we had backed away from our principles was actually not an accurate depiction. We fully stand by our principles and we're just delighted that our principles are reflected in this bipartisan legislation.
Monica Trauzzi: So, despite disagreements, you're willing to negotiate in order to get something passed through both chambers?
Cal Dooley: Well, I think that's what we also made clear and I made clear, and other people had testified at the hearing last week is that while this bill is a positive step forward, there is still room for improvement. We acknowledge that the NGOs have some legitimate concerns on further clarification of vulnerable populations, maybe further clarifications on preemption. And we believe that we can address those, and I think you've heard from Senator Vitter, as well as Senator Udall, as well as Republicans and Democrats in the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, that they're committed to resolving and narrowing these outstanding issues so that we can hopefully move this legislation forward.
Monica Trauzzi: So, what needs to be done to address the communities that are at greater risk? During the hearing, Congressman Gene Green specifically mentioned some communities within his district that are at play on that.
Cal Dooley: Well, there's two provisions in the bipartisan legislation that already identify and commit EPA to give consideration to the exposures to vulnerable populations. We think that that gives them the authority to look at those chemicals that might provide exposures to children, infants, pregnant women and that it gives them the authority to do a close analysis of that. But we do think that if people feel more comfortable that we provide greater clarification that EPA is directed to give that consideration to vulnerable populations, we think that can be handled in a modification that doesn't in any way change the intent and commitment of the authors of the legislation.
Monica Trauzzi: What are the challenges that still exist in the Senate?
Cal Dooley: Well, I think the greatest challenge we have is resolving the issue of preemption, federal preemption from an industry perspective, a chemical manufacturer, as well as the representative that testified at the House hearing from the telecommunication and the computer and technology sector. Preemption is the most important component for a lot of those users. We think that EPA ought to be assessing chemicals, ensuring and making the decision that they're safe for their intended use, and when they do so that that should preempt state regulations that would either be more onerous in their elimination of the use of some chemicals that EPA has said clearly based on the science they're safe.
Monica Trauzzi: How has the dynamic of the conversation changed, or has it changed since Senator Lautenberg's passing? I mean, he was a leading voice in the debate for a very long time. Has there been a change?
Cal Dooley: Well, I'm incredibly pleased with the leadership that Senator Udall has provided in stepping up after Senator Lautenberg's passing, but I think what has changed the tenor of the conversation is, and I mentioned this at the hearing, two years ago or even a year ago if you had Richard Dennison representing EDF and I representing the chemical industry testifying in front of a panel, it was a very contentious and confrontational discussion, because we hadn't had the opportunity to see the narrowing of our differences in a piece of legislation, where EDF, the Environmental Defense Fund, and ACC basically see a lot in common and can support it in concept. And that is what has allowed us to engage in a much more constructive dialogue and bring more stakeholders representing diverse interests together to see how we can, again, further expand the coalition and the consensus to advance responsible TSCA reform.
Monica Trauzzi: Cal, we'll end it right there. Thank you for coming on the show. Nice to see you.
Cal Dooley: Thank you. Delighted to be here.
Monica Trauzzi: And thanks for watching. We'll see you back here tomorrow.
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