Rand Paul: Chemical Safety Bill Ignores Costs, Consumer Needs

Rand Paul TSCA chemical bill

May 3, 2016—Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has been a vocal opponent of government growth in the Senate since he took office in 2011. Carrying on with this tradition, the physician and American politician took his concerns regarding a new chemical safety bill that would reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to Twitter, sharing a link to a paper explaining why the new TSCA reform bill would simply boost the Environmental Protection Agency’s power, but do little to help Americans stay safe.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the new TSCA reform bill would give the EPA the power to evaluate on its own which chemicals should be allowed or banned. This could impact everything from cleaning products to paint thinners, and even grease removal. But to Angela Logomasini of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, passing this bill would “harm human well being by leading to bans on many valuable products, undermining innovation, and diverting resources from valuable enterprises to meet burdensome regulatory mandates.”

In the paper shared by Sen. Paul, Logomasini suggests that Democrats and Republicans defending the passage of this bill may “agree that it is time to ‘modernize’ the Toxic Substances Control Act,” but what lawmakers are targeting is exactly what Logomasini believes to be the current law’s best attributes.

She writes:

“TSCA’s one commendable attribute is that it imposes a reasonable risk-based standard, one that applies many regulatory accountability standards, including some covered in President Obama’s executive order on regulatory reform. It allows the EPA to regulate when a chemical poses an ‘unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment.’ If the EPA finds that a chemical does in fact pose such an unreasonable risk, it may prohibit its use, impose regulations limiting its use, mandate recordkeeping, set disposal regulations, require posted warnings related to its use, and other requirements. It states further that the agency must apply such restrictions ‘to the extent necessary to protect adequately against such risk using the least burdensome requirements.’

This is a rational and solid risk-based standard that is unique within US environmental law. It directs the EPA to focus on scientifically robust, well-designed studies. It also demands that the agency consider both cost-benefit considerations and potentially adverse outcomes of its regulatory actions. Citizens should demand at least as much before any governmental body issues regulations that undermine the freedoms necessary for society to progress and innovate.

Yet TSCA reform proposals all strike at the heart of this standard, calling instead for a hazard-based, precautionary approach. Some would model the new rule after the ‘reasonable certainty of no harm’ standard set in the Food Quality Protection Act, which has produced a host of unnecessary bans and regulations on valuable products that are used to help ensure affordable food production and control of dangerous pests.

Additional data mandates under TSCA are also unnecessary and dangerous. Contrary to many claims, the EPA has managed to use the law to impose thousands of regulations, collect substantial data under both mandatory and voluntary programs, and demand testing of chemicals. Still, the EPA and environmentalists would like greater power to collect “new” data on a number of chemicals that have already been studied extensively by private companies, government agencies, and research bodies around the world. The EPA is unlikely to discover damning information regarding chemicals that have been used for decades without indication of adverse health concerns. Instead, mandates for additional study will simply divert research dollars away from more valuable research and development efforts. (emphasis added)”

If what Logomasini suggests is correct, this new reform bill would simply make certain processes more bureaucratic, adding extra burdens on companies that provide valuable products to Americans of all income brackets. Over time, the added burden would mean an increase in prices, which could hurt the poor the most.

While the bill has passed the House of Representatives, Sen. Paul was the lone objection voice on the floor of the Senate on May 26, when he blocked the bill.

In an interview shortly after, Paul explained that the TSCA reform bill would interfere with state laws, allowing the EPA to ignore cost concerns and consumer needs.

To the Kentucky senator, the senate needs more time to go over the bill’s text. Senators can’t just pass the piece of legislation without understanding what it does to the country’s economy.

Is Rand Paul right for blocking this bill? Share your thoughts with us!

Image credit: Gage Skidmore.

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