Boxer: Toxic Substances Deal Gives More Room to States

Boxer doesn't expect a conference to be necessary. (Rob Kunzig/Morning Consult)

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) have reached a deal on overhauling the Toxic Substances Control Act, giving more leeway to state agencies that regulate chemicals, Boxer told reporters Monday.

Inhofe and Boxer, the chair and ranking Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, respectively, released a statement on Friday announcing a deal on “key sticking points” on a bill that gives the Environmental Protection Agency a greater ability to regulate dangerous chemicals. Boxer clarified Monday that the deal was made on a provision that would have blocked states from regulating chemicals that the EPA has chosen not to regulate.

Boxer said she was “thrilled” with the deal, and that California state regulators “are very happy with it.” But she warned that other differences between the Senate and House bills on TSCA still have to be ironed out. The House passed its bill in June 2015 by a 398-1 vote, and the Senate passed its bill in December by a voice vote.

“We just did a huge change on ‘pre-emption,’ and that’s what we agreed with,” Boxer told reporters. “I haven’t looked at the rest of the bill because that has to be negotiated with the House.”

Inhofe told reporters Monday that, as of a week ago, there were not plans for a formal conference on the bills.

“I don’t think we need to do a conference,” he said. “When I left a week ago the answer had been because we were going to iron out the differences and then end up with a bill. In other words, they could send our bill back.”

The House and Senate bills both aim to reform a gap in the original 1976 bill, which calls for the EPA to regulate dangerous chemicals only if it can demonstrate they pose an “unreasonable risk.” That language of the bill set such a difficult standard that the EPA’s rule banning the distribution of asbestos was rejected by a federal court.

Morning Consult