Fail: Congress Working on Toxics Policy

With the exception of education policy, there’s probably no other issue where states’ rights are paramount than when it comes to the health of its residents. Congress is currently considering a bill that would have devastating consequences to public health in Washington state if they don’t make major changes to the proposal. The federal Chemicals in Commerce Act (CICA), currently being considered by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, is an attempt to update the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act. The 1976 act is in dire need of updating – something both parties agree on.

Unfortunately, the CICA not only falls well short of improving the current law, it will actually put communities at greater risk of exposure to toxic chemicals. It will impose weak chemical testing standards, create faulty cost/benefit methods, and prohibit states from adopting their own toxic chemical protections. With no strong federal standards in place, states have been exercising their authority to impose their own regulations to keep residents safe from toxic chemicals. In our state, I led the bipartisan effort to ban toxic PBDE flame retardants in furniture, electronics, and mattresses. More recently, the House has tried to pass similar bans on the next generation of toxic flame retardants, though the state Senate has refused to consider the matter. The current CICA would impose broad state preemptions, meaning states would be prohibited from enacting their own toxic chemical protections. This is bad public policy.

Both the Seattle Times and the Spokesman Review have published editorials highlighting the importance of preserving states’ rights. It’s been nearly 40 years since TSCAwas adopted. With the highly polarized dynamics in Washington, D.C., it could be another 40 years before this issue is addressed again. Now is the time to address this critical issue and we can’t afford to get it wrong.

Below is a letter I wrote to Congresswoman McMorris Rogers. She is Washington state’s only representative on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and she needs to hear from you on this important issue. If you want Congress to pass meaningful toxics legislation that will keep kids and communities safe, you can send your message to Congresswoman McMorris Rogers here.

Ross’ Letter: Toxics Letter to McMorris-Rodgers

About the Author

Ross
I am the Director of the Department of Early Learning for Washington State. I formerly represented the 48th Legislative District in the State House of Representatives, chairing the Appropriations committee and spent many a year at Microsoft.