As state officials deal with discoveries of water contamination in multiple Vermont communities, it has not been lost among the Vermont legislature that it is against the backdrop of an ongoing federal effort to reform the nation’s failed, four-decade old chemicals law, the Toxic Substances Control Act.
Legislators are aiming to strengthen current versions of reform by passing a Joint House Resolution, J.R.H. 26, urging Congress to pass a bill that gives the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) greater ability to regulate toxic chemicals and restricts their ability to fully preempt states from taking action. As VPIRG’s Environmental Advocate Falko Schilling noted in testimony to the House Committee on Fish, Wildlife and Water Resources last week,
“The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) was created in 1976 and has not been updated since. As discussed in the proposed language of the Resolution, 84,000 chemicals are currently in use in the United States, with approximately 1,000 new chemicals coming on the market each year.”
Not only has TSCA not been updated, but it has been broken from the beginning: just five hazardous chemicals have been restricted or banned under the law. The committee passed the bill unanimously, and it will head to the House floor for a vote this week.
Congress is now in the process of bridging different House and Senate versions of TSCA reform. The suggestions in Vermont’s resolution are in fact stronger than both pieces of pending legislation, given that both versions currently include disastrous provisions that would in fact roll back some of the EPA and individual states’ regulatory power.
The links between toxic chemicals and harmful health and environmental effects are well established, and VPIRG has long advocated for action needed at both the state and federal level. We are glad to see the state’s strong response in the communities that are dealing with recent discoveries of the dangerous chemical PFOA in drinking water sources, as well as the recognition that these devastating cases illustrate the desperate need for a more effective and precautionary approach to toxic chemical regulation.