It’s not very often that manufacturers and many environmental groups agree on a chemical safety regulation. But that’s what’s happening with the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, which passed the Senate late last week, and would reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

The original TSCA, passed in the 1970s, grandfathered in existing chemicals and required the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to justify the financial costs of imposing further regulations.  But in recent years, environmental activists have been successful in persuading both various states and mass-market retailers to adopt wide-ranging and sometimes ad hoc restrictions on the usage of various chemicals claimed by activists to be unsafe.  Manufacturers often disagree with these safety claims, but are willing to accept some restrictions as long as the regulations are centralized.  Otherwise, because manufacturers largely sell to a national market, the decision of just one retailer or State can effectively constitute a nationwide regulation.

The revisions to TSCA will not preclude “retailer regulation,” as it is widely known, but it will make it harder for activists to claim there is no federal oversight of chemical safety, particularly chemicals new to the market. 

The bill now needs to be reconciled with an earlier version passed by the House. Bipartisan support is expected. A link to the Senate report on the Act can be found here.