Obama administration presses Congress for stronger chemical regulations

The Obama administration on Tuesday called for Congress to enact legislation to tighten chemical and toxin regulations. In a speech before the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Lisa Jackson said that existing laws were outdated and ineffective:

Our oversight of the 21st century chemical industry is based on the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act. ... But over the years, not only has TSCA fallen behind the industry it's supposed to regulate - it's been proven an inadequate tool for providing the protection against chemical risks that the public rightfully expects. ...

Today I'm announcing clear Administration principles to guide Congress in writing a new chemical risk management law that will fix the weaknesses in TSCA.

The EPA is also working to maximize chemical regulation under the current TSCA. The administration argues that reform is needed because many of the chemicals in the TSCA are no longer used or produced, while other toxins are increasingly showing up in people's bodies that in 1976 were not considered dangerous. Led by the Obama administration's Essential Principles for Reform of Chemicals Management Legislation, US Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Representatives Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Bobby Rush (D-CA) are crafting legislation to be introduced later this year. Lautenberg welcomed Tuesday's announcement, calling it "a breakthrough for public health."

The Obama administration has taken several other steps to strengthen environmental regulations. In June, the EPA granted California permission to enforce its own greenhouse gas emissions standards. Earlier that month, The US House of Representatives passed a climate bill that focuses on clean energy, and Obama urged the Senate to follow suit. In March, the US Special Envoy on Climate Change announced at a UN Convention on climate change that the US is committed to the creation of an international treaty designed to combat global warming, but that such efforts would only succeed if they were economically feasible.

(Published by Jurist - September 30, 2009)

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