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MN Environmentalists Want More from New Toxics Rules

Minnesota environmentalists say an update to the EPA's Toxic Substances Control Act could limit the state's own safeguards. (iStockphoto)
Minnesota environmentalists say an update to the EPA's Toxic Substances Control Act could limit the state's own safeguards. (iStockphoto)
June 10, 2016

ST. PAUL, Minn. - One step forward, two steps back. That's how some Minnesota environmentalists describe new federal rules on toxic substances that could limit the state's own protections.

Congress this week sent a bill to update the Toxic Substances Control Act to President Obama's desk. It's the first update to the act in 40 years, and expands the Environmental Protection Agency's authority to study and test thousands of chemicals.

But Kim LaBo, program organizer with Clean Water Action Minnesota, says the proposed rules would also place new restrictions on how states can manage potentially toxic chemicals.

"Right now states can act," says LaBo. "That kind of quick action would be blocked when the EPA is assessing a chemical and then when they make a final determination states can't enact anything stronger than what the EPA has ruled."

LaBo says Minnesota has passed at least eight laws in recent years, which protect families from toxic chemicals, including formaldehyde in consumer products. She says those moves would be undermined by the new rules, if they're made law by the president.

The Environmental Defense Fund, however, says the new toxics rules are a small step in the right direction, because they'll allow the Environmental Protection Agency to work through a backlog of tens of thousands of untested chemicals. But LaBo says the EPA only will be required to assess 20 chemicals at a time, which could leave future generations vulnerable.

"The schedule of chemical assessments could be a lot more aggressive," says LaBo. "Twenty chemicals at a time is really not a serious schedule."

Other environmental protection advocates, including U-S PIRG, say the bill takes away states’ ability to protect public health. President Obama has indicated that he will sign Toxic Substances Control Act.

Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - MN