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July 30, 2013
Nine Attorneys General Voice Strong Opposition to Federal Override Provisions in Proposed Chemical Safety Improvement Act

State environmental laws would be preempted under proposed law

SEATTLE — Today, Attorney General Bob Ferguson and eight other Attorneys General from around the country released a letter they sent to Congress strongly objecting to provisions in the proposed Chemical Safety Improvement Act (S.1009) that would override state environmental laws.

The letter outlines their shared concern that S.1009, which amends the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA), jeopardizes public health and safety by severely limiting states’ long-standing power to protect the public from toxic chemicals.

“Tough state and federal environmental laws are critical to ensure the health and safety of our citizens,” said Ferguson. “The Washington State Legislature has adopted strong state laws that protect the people of Washington from toxic chemicals and other harmful substances. As currently proposed, the Chemical Safety Improvement Act would undermine those laws and prevent our state from enforcing environmental protections in our own state courts.”

Washington was joined by Attorneys Generals from California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Oregon and Vermont. The letter outlines shared concern that S.1009’s preemption provisions are too broad.

If the federal government were to adopt its own regulations under the current version of S.1009, Washington’s enforcement of the following state laws could be overridden:
• Ban on certain flame retardants (polybrominated diphenyl ethers or PBDEs).
• Ban on the sale or distribution of sports bottles, or children’s bottles, cups, or containers that contain bisphenol A (or BPA).
• Ban on the distribution or sale of children’s products containing lead, cadmium, and phthalates above certain concentrations.
• Requirement that manufacturers of children’s products report the amount and concentration of various chemicals.

Washington also would be prevented from enforcing federal regulations adopted under S.1009, and could be prevented from enacting new state laws regarding toxic chemicals even before the federal government has put its own protections in place.

“In the absence of an effective national system, states like Washington have stepped up to protect public health and the environment,” said Maia Bellon, director of Washington Department of Ecology. “Until we have a modern federal chemicals policy that provides fair and effective regulation of chemicals, states are compelled to act.”

Protecting the environment is a top focus under the administration of Attorney General Bob Ferguson. Ferguson is developing an environmental crimes prosecution program within the AGO Criminal Litigation Unit, which successfully prosecuted its first criminal environmental case in a decade last month. He is working in partnership with county prosecutors and federal and state agencies to more efficiently prosecute these crimes.

The Attorneys General letter can be found here.

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