Congress Sets the Stage for Fight on Toxic Flame Retardant Laws
Posted On: Jul 02, 2015
June 25, 2015 - This week, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed H.R. 2576, legislation to amend the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) by a vote of 398-1. The House vote sets the stage for action in the Senate on its version of TSCA reform, S. 697.
TSCA, which grants the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) license to take regulatory action to restrict chemicals in commerce, is largely viewed as out-of-date and ineffective. Given the weak federal law, fire fighters who are exposed to multiple toxic substances on a daily basis have taken the battle to the states, fighting to ban and regulate toxic chemicals such as flame retardants.
Legislative battles won at the state level have resulted in such regulations in Vermont, Oregon, California, Maine and elsewhere. Unfortunately, as Congress has considered TSCA reform, some in the chemical industry have worked to preempt or undermine strong state chemical laws.
Although both the House and Senate bills contain provisions the IAFF considers problematic, on the issue of state preemption, the House bill is superior to the Senate bill. The House bill does not preempt state actions until the EPA issues a final determination on the safety of a chemical. The Senate bill, however, establishes a complicated preemption process which would preempt state actions on certain chemicals during the EPA’s review of such chemicals.
Given the strong bipartisan vote in the House, the Senate is expected to consider S. 697 in the near future. The IAFF will continue working in opposition to the preemption of strong state chemical laws and to protect fire fighters from toxic chemicals.