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For Release: Thursday, May 19, 2016

State Environmental Commissioners Urge Congress to Respect States' Role in Chemical Safety

Proposed reforms to the federal Toxic Substances Control Act would limit state regulation of toxic chemicals

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Acting Commissioner Basil Seggos joined state environmental commissioners from Connecticut, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Washington in calling on Congress to reconsider the language in a proposed bill to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976.

Through Governor Andrew Cuomo's leadership, New York State is aggressively working to protect the health of New Yorkers and the environment from toxic chemical contamination. Many of the State's regulations are more stringent than those of the Environmental Protection Agency. The version of the reform bill currently under consideration contains broad preemption language that would effectively prevent states from banning chemicals and passing laws or updating regulations to address toxic chemicals affecting their people and environment.

"The latest version of Toxic Substances Chemical Act (TSCA) reform that has surfaced following House-Senate negotiations is deeply troubling, as the draft legislation will restrict New York State's ability to protect our citizens from toxic chemicals," Acting Commissioner Seggos said. "We applaud the leadership of Congressman Paul Tonko and others who are working toward an agreement that creates a strong national program to properly regulate toxic chemicals while preserving the rights of states to ban and regulate harmful substances where public health is at risk, and to allow for less restrictive waivers as necessary. New York State strongly urges all members of Congress to ensure the final TSCA legislation establishes a comprehensive national program that does not undermine the ability of states to regulate hazardous chemicals."

The officials issued the following statement:

As state environmental officials, we are greatly concerned about pending TSCA reform legislation in the Congress that will restrict states' abilities to protect their citizens from toxic chemicals.

Unfortunately, the most recent agreement goes too far in preempting our states' abilities to continue to protect our residents. To be clear, there are good elements in the legislation. However, state authorities are excessively and unnecessarily preempted, in exchange for the promise of federal protection that is too meager.

As state environmental officials, our mission is to protect people and the environment from these chemicals. Our states have been leading the way with innovative policies and state-level standards that have made great progress in this area. Our laws and regulations have in turn accelerated action by the private sector, and the federal government, to improve chemical safety.

Far from leading to a patchwork quilt of competing regulations, state leadership on toxics has a demonstrated track record of spurring national agreements with manufacturers, or paving the way for federal legislation.

We have long advocated for strong TSCA reform. We need a national system that works to protect all Americans. Our states have provided input to both chambers of Congress in an attempt to help craft effective reform legislation that includes a well-functioning state-federal partnership.

We urge those working on the bill to improve the provisions dealing with state preemption. This could include making waivers more accessible to states, preserving state abilities to ban chemicals (as currently exists under TSCA), and removing or reforming the proposed regulatory "pause" that blocks a state from regulating a chemical that the EPA is only examining. We appreciate the hard work that some members have already devoted to protecting state authorities, and urge final TSCA reform legislation to maintain states' abilities to protect our citizens.

Rob Klee, Commissioner Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection
Basil Seggos, Acting Commissioner New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
John Stine, Commissioner Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
Tom Burack, Commissioner New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services
Deb Markowitz, Secretary Vermont Agency of Natural Resources
Maia Bellon, Director Washington Department of Ecology

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