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TSCA Reform: Close at Hand or Close to Falling Apart

May 9, 2016

Recent press reports indicate a deal is very close on legislation modernizing the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). While a great deal of progress has apparently been made, negotiations on key points are still ongoing and a final package, if concluded, may not be available for another week or more. Last year, the House and Senate both passed TSCA reform bills with impressive bipartisan support, and Congressional leaders expressed hope that a final bill could be sent to President Obama early in 2016.

There has been concern recently that, with negotiations now stretching into May, the prospect for TSCA reform were starting to dim if a deal could not be reached soon on some of the key issues, such as preemption of state regulatory programs. Also, election year politics is casting an increasingly greater shadow over congressional activity, making already contentious issues even more difficult to resolve. We are hearing that much progress has been made among the key players on the major issues but that drafting issues and smaller, thorny issues still are holding up a final deal. It is possible that these smaller issues -- or how the larger deal is reflected in the legislation -- could still pose a threat to a final package but hopes are high that Congress will be able to take up a final compromise bill in the near future.

Failure to pass TSCA reform would surely be a bitter disappointment for all those in and outside Congress who have labored now for many years to modernize the law. To the general public, it confirms that Congress is unable to tackle big issues, but for those engaged in environmental policy, it would represent a lost opportunity to break a decades long stalemate on environmental issues.

Congress, in fact, has no recent bipartisan template for passage of environmental legislation. Congress hasn’t updated TSCA since the law’s passage in 1976, and it hasn’t approved legislation amending a comprehensive environmental regulatory program since passage in 1990 of amendments to the Clean Air Act.

Manufacturing and global commerce have changed dramatically in the last twenty-five year, and. outdated regulatory regimes continue to compromise our nation’s economic and environmental security. Industry argues that we need regulatory regimes that reflect our times, provide greater certainty and uniformity across the country. If enacted into law, TSCA reform could help illuminate a bipartisan path for Congress to tackle other environmental issues.

Those in Congress negotiating the bill are keeping mum about potential compromises, a sure sign that a deal is close at hand. However, it is wise to remember that in negotiating any major legislative package, there is no deal on any one issue until there is a deal on all issues.

Chris Mitchell

With more than fifteen years of experience in public policy, Chris offers clients’ strategic counsel and advocacy on a variety of policy issues before Congress and Executive Branch agencies. He works primarily with the firm's technology and transportation clients. His experience on transnational issues, including those that impact the digital currency industry, makes him a valued member of our foreign policy and trade practice. Prior to joining Prime Policy Group, Chris spent more than eight years working for members of Congress from the State of California.

Gabe Rozsa

Gabe leads Prime Policy Group's energy and environment practice and also assists on client work related to infrastructure and agriculture. His clients have included commercial clients in utilities, oil and gas, chemicals, and automotive as well as trade associations and state and local governments. Gabe’s most recent Capitol Hill experience was as Environmental Counsel on the Republican staff of the House Science Committee and Staff Director of its Energy Subcommittee.
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