California EPA Calls Foul Over Chemical Safety “Improvement” Act
Having lived and worked in California most of my life (and spent the last 12 years at EWG), I could not be more proud of my state’s long-time leadership in protecting public health and the environment.
Or perhaps I should say that I thought I couldn’t be more proud – because over the last several weeks one California agency after another has taken a stand on the so-called “Chemical Safety Improvement Act” that was introduced in the U.S. Senate in May, pointing out to Washington policymakers that the bill could cripple the state’s ability to protect its citizens from toxic chemicals, air pollution and threats to drinking water.
First the California Department of Toxic Substances Control wrote a letter detailing its concerns. Next it was the California Attorney General Kamala Harris. And on Tuesday, the head of the state Environmental Protection Agency wrote to key players – California Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer and New York state’s Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand – expressing his “serious concerns” about the pending legislation.
It’s not just one or two California programs that might be affected by the so-called “reform” bill. The state EPA’s letter explains that the agency has identified “dozens of California laws and regulations that would be at risk of preemption under the current provisions” of the bill. This includes the state’s groundbreaking Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32) as well as laws and regulations on ozone pollution, clean drinking water and consumer product safety, which could all be invalidated by federal law if the bill passes.
As Matthew Rodriquez, head of the California EPA, points out, California’s leadership has “resulted in beneficial changes in product composition and chemical use that extend far beyond the borders of our state,” and its “laws or regulations have also provided a model that is followed in other states or nationally.”
I’m hoping that California’s leadership in pointing out that the bill could result in the nation taking a step backward on chemical policy will inspire other states to take a similar stand. Just as with the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and other federal environmental laws, federal law on toxic chemicals should provide the floor – not the ceiling – for what states can do to protect their citizens.