Department of Ecology News Release - May 19, 2016

State environmental officials call on Congress to respect states’ role in chemical safety
Federal legislation would limit states’ abilities to regulate toxic chemicals

OLYMPIA - Washington Department of Ecology Director Maia Bellon joined state environmental officials from Connecticut, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont in calling on Congress to reconsider the language in a proposed bill to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976. The version of the reform bill currently being considered contains broad preemption language that would prevent states from passing laws or updating regulations to address toxic chemicals affecting their people and environment.

The officials issued the following statement: “As state environmental officials, we are greatly concerned about pending TSCA reform legislation in the Congress that will restrict states’ abilities to protect their citizens from toxic chemicals.” “Unfortunately, the most recent agreement goes too far in preempting our states’ abilities to continue to protect our residents. To be clear, there are good elements in the legislation. However, state authorities are excessively and unnecessarily preempted, in exchange for the promise of federal protection that is too meager.”

“As state environmental officials, our mission is to protect people and the environment from these chemicals. Our states have been leading the way with innovative policies and state-level standards that have made great progress in this area. Our laws and regulations have in turn accelerated action by the private sector, and the federal government, to improve chemical safety.

“Far from leading to a patchwork quilt of competing regulations, state leadership on toxics has a demonstrated track record of spurring national agreements with manufacturers, or paving the way for federal legislation.” “We have long advocated for strong TSCA reform. We need a national system that works to protect all Americans. Our states have provided input to both chambers of Congress in an attempt to help craft effective reform legislation that includes a well-functioning state-federal partnership.

“We urge those working on the bill to improve the provisions dealing with state preemption. This could include making waivers more accessible to states, preserving state abilities to ban chemicals (as currently exists under TSCA), and removing or reforming the proposed regulatory “pause” that blocks a state from regulating a chemical that the EPA is only examining. We appreciate the hard work that some members have already devoted to protecting state authorities, and urge final TSCA reform legislation to maintain states’ abilities to protect our citizens.”

Maia Bellon, Director
Washington Department of Ecology

Rob Klee, Commissioner
Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection

Basil Seggos, Acting Commissioner
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

John Stine, Commissioner
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

Tom Burack, Commissioner
New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services

Deb Markowitz, Secretary
Vermont Agency of Natural Resources

Contact: Andrew Wineke, communications, 360-407-6149, @ecologyWA