Editorial: Congress Must Not Undo State Toxics Regulations

Seattle Times Editorial, April 27, 2014, Seattle Times


DOUBLE, double toil and trouble, as two pieces of toxic legislation in the caldron bubble. Apologies to Shakespeare, but committees in both chambers of Congress are pondering two bad bills.


Fortunately Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson has signed on with attorneys general from 12 other states to oppose the Chemicals in Commerce Act, which is percolating in the U.S. House Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy.


The legislation would undo longstanding state authority to enact protections against dangerous chemicals.


State lawmakers in Olympia have done just that in recent years. They have banned certain flame retardants, the sale or distribution of sports bottles and children’s bottles, cups and containers with bisphenol A, children’s products with lead and other chemicals above certain concentrations, and have banned sale or distribution of certain products containing mercury.


The U.S. House measure would override those laws, and prohibit others from being considered. The bill, still in draft phase, also is opposed by attorneys general from New York, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon and Vermont.


Last year, Ferguson joined other AGs in opposition to a Senate version, the Chemical Safety Improvement Act. As Randi Abrams-Caras of Washington Toxics Coalition noted, “As bad as the Senate bill is, the House version is worse.”


Both seek to amend the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976. The legislation has been law for decades, but tens of thousands of chemicals have never been reviewed as the law intended.


New legislation would further tether the Environmental Protection Agency, which has not had the staff or budget to keep pace. States have had to step in, but every inch of progress has been a struggle.


States have been leaders. “Federal reforms must not eliminate states’s right to protect our citizens from dangerous chemicals,” Ferguson said.


These local fights and this battle have been endorsed by faith groups, health organizations, environmentalists, firefighters and legislators from both parties.

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