President Obama signed the Lautenberg Act, the first amendment to the Toxic Substances Control Act since it was passed in 1976. In the next two years the EPA must set the policies and procedures needed to carry out the changes in the law. These policies are important as the EPA must use available science and information to assign priority for determining which chemicals, out of 80,000 in current use, will receive a full assessment of their health risk for humans. As the rule making goes on, the EPA must begin evaluation of chemicals based on existing work plans. Manufacturers may also request evaluation of an existing chemical. New chemicals will also be reviewed before entering the market. The EPA acts as the gatekeeper for manufacturers’ claims that chemical data are confidential business information.
Rule making goes through a comment process. If a chemical is assigned a low priority for EPA regulation, that decision is subject to judicial review. There is a complex interaction between federal and state regulation of chemicals, based on the precedence of existing law, EPA’s assignment of priority, future regulatory actions taken by the EPA, and possible waiver of federal preemption of state law. Many steps in this process are subject to court review. The EPA may set fees on chemical makers at a level meant to cover 25% of its regulatory costs with a cap of $25 million in the first year. At present there is no additional budget request to cover the increased responsibilities of the EPA for chemical regulation.