May 28, 2013

Manchin was essential to chemical proposal | Charleston Daily Mail

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., was credited recently for rallying bipartisan support in the Senate for the first update of the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976.

It appears to be an example of the careful policy setting work that the U.S. Senate should be doing.

After all, a former governor like Manchin knows a thing or two about the importance of getting regulation right — and the economic impact on real people when regulators get it wrong.

Under current law, the Environmental Protection Agency can initiate testing of a chemical “only if evidence surfaces that the substance is dangerous,” wrote Brad Plumer of The Washington Post. “What’s more, tens of thousands of existing chemicals were exempt from review when the law was enacted in 1976.”

Of 84,000 chemicals registered in the United States, the EPA has deemed dangerous and banned only five.

But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have found at least 212 chemicals in people, including at least six known carcinogens and dozens that are linked to cancer, birth defects and other diseases.

Clearly, there is a need to update the law.

Last week, Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., and Sen. David Vitter, R-La., said they had reached an agreement to do so. It drew eight Democratic senators, including Manchin, and eight Republican co-sponsors.

The Lautenberg-Vitter Chemical Safety Improvement Act of 2013 would let the EPA:

? Review all actively used chemicals and label them as high or low priority based on their potential risk to human health and the environment. High-priority substances would get further review.

? Obtain information from companies without a protracted rule-making process.

? Have more flexibility to act on chemicals deemed unsafe, ranging from required labeling to outright bans.

But the proposal would also require the agency to find “the least burdensome alternative” to current practice” — a curb the EPA needs.

Cal Dooley of the American Chemistry Council, a former congressman from California, called the proposed Lautenberg-Vitter Chemical Safety Improvement Act of 2013 “a very fair and very balanced proposal” and said chemical companies were prepared to give the EPA more information “in a cost-effective way.”

Environmentalists were split, one calling it “the least that could be done,” and another calling it “certainly a net improvement over the status quo.”

Sixteen senators, half from each party, have crafted a proposal that chemical companies can live with, environmentalists regard as an improvement — and that gives the EPA new tools while also setting limits for its power. This is a real achievement.

Most people want progress on health and the environment — at a price that won’t tank the economy.

Manchin helped find that balance, which makes him a significant player in the U.S. Senate.

Source: Steady progress at the right price is what Americans really want