Bipartisan effort to regulate dangerous chemicals

Published: May 30, 2013

The following editorial by The Washington Post’s editorial board was published by the newspaper May 29, 2013.

In today’s Washington, it’s strange enough to see a burst of bipartisanship. Odder still is that the unexpected cooperation might lead to the first major environmental law enacted since the 1990s.

The Toxic Substances Control Act, which was supposed to give the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the authority to regulate potentially dangerous chemicals, has been on the books since 1976. Yet it is such a shambles that, in all that time, the agency has used it to ban only five chemicals. The law allowed thousands of chemicals to stay on the market with no review, and it made the process of vetting new ones so difficult that they have been barely regulated at all. The EPA can’t even demand testing without undergoing a grueling rule-making process and demonstrating that a chemical is risky. The agency — somehow — has to provide data to get data. And even with alarming information on a particular chemical, the EPA must clear a very high legal bar to ban or limit its use. In 1991 a court threw out the EPA’s ban on asbestos, a notorious carcinogen.

Read the full editorial at The Washington Post.

The following editorial by The New York Times’s editorial board was published by the newspaper May 29, 2013.

A bill co-sponsored by eight Democrats and eight Republicans was introduced in the Senate last week to revise the Toxic Substances Control Act, which governs the regulation of chemicals used in consumer products and manufacturing processes. Almost everyone agrees that the law, enacted in 1976, is badly flawed because of the complexity, costs and delays it imposes on regulating chemicals.

Previous efforts to improve it have gone nowhere. The new bill, the Chemical Safety Improvement Act of 2013 — introduced by Senators Frank Lautenberg, a Democrat of New Jersey, and David Vitter, a Republican of Louisiana — is designed to break the logjam. It deserves to be passed because it would be a significant advance over the current law.

Read the full editorial at The New York Times.