It seems that certain states may begin to push back against the Trump administration’s anti-regulatory position.
In December, the administration decided to delay action on proposed rules pertaining to the regulation of dangerous chemicals known as TCE, NMP and Methylene Chloride. The EPA announced the decision as part of an overarching deregulatory plan that includes over 635 withdrawn rules and 700 more delayed actions.
The administration did this despite the fact that the chemicals in question pose severe risks to those who use them. TCE, for instance, is a carcinogen “by all routes of exposure,” according to the EPA.
In January, the administration delivered another blow to chemical-related regulations when it changed the “major source” provision of the Clean Air Act. The provision, written in 1995, required all facilities deemed “major sources” of pollution to be regulated as major sources even after said facilities lowered their output of toxic chemicals.
These are just a few of the moves implemented by the administration to pull back chemical-related regulations. Now, in a bid to battle the administration’s assault on the federal regulatory schema, 23 states are expected to consider toxic chemical regulations at the state-level.
According to a report from Safer States, 23 states are poised to consider as many as 112 measures pertaining to the regulation of toxic chemicals. Another 35 states have already adopted 173 measures aimed at reducing exposure to toxic chemicals. In California, for instance, AB1575 is currently in committee, where legislators are considering the value of a bill that would require cosmetic companies to list their ingredients on the product label. And in Iowa, lawmakers must determine whether certain flame retardants should be sold at all – that’s HF457. Massachusetts is aiming even higher, as it is currently sitting on a bill that would set up an economic framework for keeping toxic chemicals off the market.
Other measures have been enforced for some time. Take, for instance, AB 1319, a California law passed in 2011 that prohibits the use of Bisphenol-A (BPA) in bottles and sippy cups; or HB 5314, a Connecticut measure passed in 2010 that forbids the use of cadmium in children’s jewelry.
Throughout 2018, the report suggests that 15 states will likely consider policies that would remove flame retardants from furniture and other products. Seven other states have bills on the roster that would force companies to disclose the use of chemicals. Some of those states are considering measures that would identify dangerous chemicals. In addition, there are seven states that may remove (or reduce) the presence of per- and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) chemicals in food packaging. Another seven states could pass laws that would limit the contamination of water sources by PFAS.
Picking Up the Slack
Gretchen Salter, a director of Safer States, said that these states are “doing what the federal government will not.” Salter is certainly right about one thing. The federal government is crippling its efforts to reduce pollution. According to the 2019 budget proposal, the Department of Energy’s renewable energy programs could receive a $1.9 billion cut, reducing its budget to $2.5 billion. Similarly, the Department of Efficiency and Renewable Energy would see its budget cut by 65 percent. And while all these reductions are doled out, the Office of Fossil Energy’s budget would go up by 20 percent.
Rewriting the Rules
Meanwhile, Nancy B. Beck, of the EPA’s toxic chemical unit, has been pursuing deregulatory initiatives. One initiative in particular sought to rewrite a rule, making it more difficult to identify the public health effects of certain chemicals. Beck’s plans caused alarm in October, when officials from the EPA’s Office of Water circulated a confidential memo saying that Beck’s proposal could cause an “underestimation of the potential risks to human health and the environment.”
With moves like this underway, all of us who are concerned about the environment and our exposure to toxic chemicals should be happy to know that states are currently in the process of taking matters into their own hands.