Calif. Officials Object to Proposed Federal Bill Regulating Chemicals
Officials from California and other states are pushing back against federal legislation (S 1009) that could limit states' power to enforce their own regulations on toxic chemicals, including California's Proposition 65, the Los Angeles Times' "Politics Now" reports (Halper, "Politics Now," Los Angeles Times, 7/31).
Details of Prop. 65
Prop. 65 requires manufacturers, retailers and property owners to post warning signs if goods or premises are contaminated with chemicals known to cause birth defects or cancer.
Under Prop. 65, lawyers can bring claims against businesses that knowingly expose residents to toxic chemicals identified by state law.
Since 2008, lawyers have filed more than 2,000 of such claims (California Healthline, 5/8).
Details of the Bill
The bill -- called the "Chemical Safety Improvement Act" -- would expand the Environmental Protection Agency's authority over the chemical industry nationwide.
It also seeks to prevent chemical companies from having to adapt to varying state regulations, according to "Politics Now" ("Politics Now," Los Angeles Times, 7/31).
According to the Sierra Sun Times, the bill could jeopardize several California initiatives in addition to Prop. 65, including:
- A statewide ban on certain flame retardants;
- A state law limiting the use of volatile organic compounds; and
- The state's Green Chemistry Program, which promotes safe alternatives to toxic chemicals in everyday products (Sierra Sun Times, 7/31).
During a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on Wednesday, Michael Troncoso -- senior counsel for the California attorney general's office -- said the bill would have "potentially crippling effects" on the state's ability to enforce its own toxic chemical laws ("Politics Now," Los Angeles Times, 7/31).
Also on Wednesday, California Attorney General Kamala Harris (D) and eight other attorneys general sent a letter to lawmakers objecting to the bill.
They wrote that the bill could "seriously jeopardize public health and safety by preventing states from acting to address potential risks of toxic substances and from exercising state enforcement powers" (Hattem, "E2 Wire," The Hill, 7/31).
U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) -- chair of the Senate environment panel -- said that "[t]oo many states are objecting" to the bill and that it should be reworked.
However, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) -- co-sponsor of the bill -- said that the legislation was not intended "to remove the authority of any state to protect their air, water or citizens" and that he currently is working to clarify the measure ("Politics Now," Los Angeles Times, 7/31).
Vitter added that he will work with Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) to make it "crystal clear" that the bill does not preempt state laws ("E2 Wire," The Hill, 7/31).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.