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Senate Toxic Chemical Bill Called "Intrusion" on States' Rights

New Hampshire consumer advocates say they're concerned a U.S. Senate update of the Toxic Substances Control Act could tie states' hands to pass their own protections against hazardous chemicals in products. Courtesy: Environmental Health Strategy Center.
New Hampshire consumer advocates say they're concerned a U.S. Senate update of the Toxic Substances Control Act could tie states' hands to pass their own protections against hazardous chemicals in products. Courtesy: Environmental Health Strategy Center.
April 28, 2015

AUGUSTA, Maine - After almost 40 years, there is little question the nation's Toxic Substances Control Act is in need of an update, but local consumer advocates say a proposal pending in the U.S. Senate could mean fewer health and safety protections.

Mike Belliveau, executive director of the Environmental Health Strategy Center in Portland, says it's a good thing lawmakers are paying attention to the toxic chemical issue – but he says the way the bill is currently written is an "unprecedented intrusion" on state's rights.

"We need to make sure we preserve the authority of states like Maine to take action under our state law to protect its citizens," says Belliveau, "while going ahead and strengthening the federal law."

Belliveau says Senators Susan Collins and Angus King are unlikely to support the measure as it is currently written, in part because both are concerned about preserving the state's authority to take action under Maine's Kid Safe Products Act.

According to Belliveau, retailers like Home Depot are showing leadership by adopting policies that call for phasing out products that contain high levels of dangerous chemicals like phthalates in 2015.

"When you have leadership in the marketplace and leadership at the state level, it drives the attention of Congress," he says. "We hope that Congress gets it right and does not chill the ability of states like Maine to take protective action, and doesn't chill market leaders like Home Depot from moving forward."

Senate Bill 697 was introduced by Senators David Vitter, a Louisiana Republican, and Tom Udall, a New Mexico Democrat. It has the support of the chemical industry.

The bill gets a markup Tuesday in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - ME