A.G. Schneiderman Leads 13-State Coalition In Opposing Proposed U.S. House Bill That Strips States Of Right To Protect Citizens Against Toxic Chemicals

Revisions To The Toxic Substances Control Act Would Eliminate Powers Of States To Protect Public Health And The Environment

New York Has Long Been A Leader In Addressing Chemical Hazards, Banning Them In Children’s Products, Drinking Water

Schneiderman: Federal Reforms Must Not Eliminate New York’s Right To Protect Our Citizens from Dangerous Chemicals

NEW YORK – Leading a coalition of attorneys general from 13 states, New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman sent a letter today to the leaders of the U.S. House of Representative Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy objecting to proposed legislation that would amend the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 (TSCA) by stripping states of the power to protect their citizens’ health and environment from dangerous chemicals. 

The coalition letter is in response to the proposed draft legislation, titled the “Chemicals in Commerce Act,” authored by Representative John Shimkus (R-IL), chairman of the subcommittee. The legislation, which seeks to reform TSCA, includes language that would eliminate much of the authority that states currently have to reduce risks posed by the production or use of toxic chemicals. Currently, federal law allows both the federal government and the states to address toxic chemicals, and states have often taken the lead in acting to reduce toxic risks to citizens and the environment. 

“From banning a dangerous chemical formerly used in plastic baby bottles to restricting heavy metals in consumer packaging, New York has led the nation in taking necessary actions to reduce the risks posed by toxic chemicals,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “But now, some members of the U.S. House of Representatives are seeking to bar states from moving to restrict the use of these chemicals. While TSCA needs to be reformed, changes in the law must not eliminate the right of states to protect their citizens.” 

The letter, which can be found in its entirety here, states that, “if enacted, the draft bill’s broad preemption language would effectively eliminate the existing federal-state partnership on the regulation of toxic chemicals by preventing states from continuing their successful and ongoing legislative, regulatory and enforcement work that has historically reduced the risks to public health and the environment posed by toxic chemicals.” The letter offers the coalition’s assistance in crafting legislation that helps TSCA meet its goal of regulating dangerous substances, while preserving the traditional and critical role of states in protecting health and welfare within their boundaries.

The central goal of TSCA is to set federal restrictions on the manufacture and use of chemicals that present an unacceptable risk of injury to public health and the environment. In practice, the act has failed to accomplish this, as very few of the tens of thousands of industrial chemicals in commerce have ever been reviewed by the federal government for safety, let alone restricted.

For decades, New York has taken legal action to restrict the sale or use of products containing harmful chemicals in the state. For example, New York has:

  • Banned bisphenol A (BPA), an estrogen mimic, in baby bottles, pacifiers, and other child care products;
  • Banned the probable human carcinogen tris(2-chloroethyl) phosphate (TRIS) in children’s toys, mattresses, pillows, and other products; 
  • Restricted the use of the toxic and flammable solvent n-propyl bromide by dry cleaners; • Prohibited the import, sale, or distribution of gasoline containing methyl tertiary butyl either (MTBE), a highly toxic drinking water contaminant; and
  • Restricted the levels of dangerous lead, cadmium, mercury, and chromium in inks, dyes, pigments, adhesives, and other additives that product packaging may contain.

Michael Belliveau, senior advisor to the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition, said, “The House bill would grossly violate states’ rights to protect public health from toxic chemicals. We need real reform, not this chemical industry wish list that would roll back federal authority while also preventing states from taking protective action. We applaud these state attorneys general for standing up for public health." 

Ansje Miller, Eastern States Director of the Center for Environmental Health, said, “There are dozens of state laws that protect Americans from toxic chemicals. These laws serve as proving grounds where critical reforms take shape for national consideration.  The Chemicals in Commerce Act will pre-empt these state laws.  Anyone supporting this legislation will have a hard time explaining how they can support states-rights while they take away the authority of individual states to regulate hazardous chemicals at home.  We are grateful for the work that the state AG's have done to protect us from toxic chemicals and applaud their commitment to work with federal legislators on this issue."

NYPIRG Legislative Counsel Russ Haven said, “The Toxic Substances Control Act has utterly failed to protect the public from exposure to toxic chemicals in our homes, schools and workplaces. Advocates and state lawmakers have filled the void by pressing for state-level laws and regulations that protect the public from dangerous chemicals like Bisphenol A, toxic-flame retardants, lead and cadmium. Any proposal that would pre-empt states from going further than national standards is a step backward and completely unacceptable. NYPIRG applauds Attorney General Schneiderman and his counterparts in other states for sending a clear message to Congress about what a strong public health oriented toxic chemical policy should look like.” 

New York League of Conservation Voters President Marcia Bystrynsaid, “Instead of reforming the Toxic Substances Control Act, the proposed legislation would actually put the health of New York families at risk. With Washington mired in partisan gridlock, it is more important than ever for states like New York to be laboratories of innovation and to protect their residents. We applaud New York Attorney General Schneiderman and attorneys general from around the country for working to stop this bad bill.”

Kathleen Curtis, Executive Director of Clean and Healthy New York,said, "It's ironic that the very same progressive state laws that drove the chemical industry to the bargaining table are the ones they're now striving to avoid in the future. This latest cynical attempt to create a safe harbor for toxic chemicals while simultaneously preventing state governments from protecting their own residents is both immoral and unconstitutional, and we're glad Attorney General Schneiderman is leading this charge to protect state's rights. Legislators from every state should also work to prevent any measure that removes their ability to appropriately represent their constituents."  

Peter Iwanowicz, executive director of Environmental Advocates of New York,said, “Tying states' hands on toxic chemical regulation endangers public health. New York has been a national leader in limiting toxic chemical use, as well as ensuring the public’s access to information about health impacts. For decades we’ve moved the conversation forward, creating healthier communities in the process. Congress should not do the industry’s bidding by turning back the clock on state-led protections. Environmental Advocates applauds Attorney General Schneiderman for leading opposition to this dangerous plan.”

Joining Attorney General Schneiderman in today’s letter are the Attorneys General from California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.

This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Andrew Frank, Policy Advisor Peter Washburn and Deputy Bureau Chief Monica Wagner, all of the Attorney General’s Environmental Protection Bureau. Environmental Protection Bureau Chief is Lemuel M. Srolovic. Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice is Alvin Bragg. The First Deputy for Affirmative Litigation is Janet Sabel. 

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