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Toxics

Reforming Toxics Law

The Toxics Substances Control Act (TSCA) was passed in 1976. It was designed to protect consumers from the dangers of toxic chemicals in products. Unfortunately, it has not done that. Since the law passed, 80,000 chemicals have been placed in the U.S. market, but the EPA has only required testing on 200, and only 5 have been restricted. Congress is working to reform TSCA so that the EPA can more effectively do its job and promote safer alternatives while working with industry to better protect the American people. Currently the Senate is considering the Safe Chemicals Act (S 3209) proposed by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ). Meanwhile, the House is considering a proposal sponsored by Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL) and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA). LCV is committed to working with Congress and the Administration to pass comprehensive TSCA reform.

Chemical Facility Security

Chemical plants are one of the nation's sectors most vulnerable to terrorist attacks. In fact, according to the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, an attack on a chemical facility in a major U.S. city could result in 100,000 casualties. Many facilities have switched to safer chemical processes, reducing and sometimes eliminating the risk to millions of Americans.

The House recently passed the Chemical and Water Security Act of 2009 (H.R. 2868), which sets comprehensive security standards and requires high risk facilities to evaluate and implement safer chemical processes. This bill is currently being considered by the Senate, and LCV urges passage of a strong bill that will protect the millions of Americans currently threatened by chemical facilities.

Reinstating Superfund “Polluter Pays” Fee

The Superfund law was created by Congress in 1980 to clean up toxic and hazardous waste sites. Over the past 25 years, more than 300 toxic sites have been permanently remedied and removed from the National Priorities List of the most toxic sites in the nation, and over 7,000 sites have been addressed and stabilized. But there is still significant work to do. One in four people in America, including ten million children, still live within four miles of a Superfund site. On top of the 1,200 active Superfund sites that remain on the National Priorities list and the hundreds of thousands of toxic sites that remain unlisted, Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast and left the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the monumental challenge of cleaning up the toxic pollution left behind.

Superfund operates under the guiding principle that polluters should pay to clean up the messes they created. When no one responsible for the pollution is available to clean up a mess, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) steps in and cleanup is funded through the Superfund Trust Fund. Historically, Superfund has been funded by a fee charged to polluting industries such as chemical manufacturers and oil and gas companies. However, the fee expired in 1996 and the trust fund has been exhausted. This has resulted in a dramatic slowing of cleanups across the nation at a time when it is most needed.

Reinstating polluter pays fees would shift the tax burden of paying to clean up sites from taxpayers back to polluting industries, and increase funds available for other important environmental programs.