AG Gansler Opposes Provisions in U.S. House Bill that Strip States of Right to Protect Citizens From Toxic Chemicals
As written, Toxic Substances Control Act would eliminate states' authority to protect public health and the environment
Baltimore, MD (April 17, 2014) - Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler sent a letter today to the leaders of the U.S. House of Representatives' Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy objecting to proposed legislation that would amend the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 (TSCA) by stripping states of the power to protect their citizens' health and environment from dangerous chemicals.
"States have long been at the vanguard in protecting citizens from chemical hazards in drinking water, children's products and other areas," said Attorney General Gansler. "This kind of power grab would only hurt the ability of state governments to protect its citizens from toxic chemicals."
The letter from a coalition of 13 attorneys general is in response to proposed draft legislation, entitled the "Chemicals in Commerce Act," authored by Rep. John Shimkus, chairman of the subcommittee. The legislation, which seeks to reform TSCA, includes language that would eliminate much of the authority that states currently have to reduce risks posed by the production or use of toxic chemicals. Currently, federal law allows both the federal government and the states to address toxic chemicals, and states have often taken the lead in acting to reduce toxic risks to citizens and the environment.
The letter, which can be found in its entirety here, states that, "if enacted, the draft bill's broad preemption language would effectively eliminate the existing federal-state partnership on the regulation of toxic chemicals by preventing states from continuing their successful and ongoing legislative, regulatory and enforcement work that has historically reduced the risks to public health and the environment posed by toxic chemicals." The letter offers the coalition's assistance in crafting legislation that helps TSCA meet its goal of regulating dangerous substances, while preserving the traditional and critical role of states in protecting health and welfare within their boundaries.
The central goal of TSCA is to set federal restrictions on the manufacture and use of chemicals that present an unacceptable risk of injury to public health and the environment. In practice, the act has failed to accomplish this as very few of the tens of thousands of industrial chemicals in commerce have ever been reviewed by the federal government for safety, let alone restricted.
For decades, Maryland has taken legal action to restrict the sale or use of products containing harmful chemicals in the state. Examples of the types of laws that protect Marylanders from toxic chemicals include:
- Regulation of products with brominated flame retardants
- Ban on manufacture and sale of lead-containing children's products and,
- Regulation of cadmium in children's jewelry
Joining Attorney General Gansler in sending the letter today to Reps. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), Fred Upton (R-Mich.), Henry Waxman (R-Calif.) and John Shimkus (R-Ill.) were the attorneys general from California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Washington, and Vermont.
In July 2013, Attorney General Gansler and seven other attorneys general objected to the Chemical Safety Improvement Act (S. 1009), which amended TSCA.