Feb 4, 2015

Bill Introduced in Washington State Legislature to Expand Chemicals Management Program

On Jan. 21, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s legislation on chemicals management — SB 5406, An Act Relating to Using Chemical Action Plans to Require Safer Chemicals in Washington — was introduced in the state legislature. The bill is currently in the Senate Committee on Energy, Environment and Telecommunications and has 10 Senate cosponsors.

The legislation would expand Washington’s current chemicals management program with similar features to California’s Safer Consumer Products law. This bill is one of a number of state initiatives this year to create more rigorous programs for evaluating chemicals in products sold in the states, further adding uncertainty and complicating the country’s regulatory landscape.

Washington has a history of chemicals policy, with prior regulations banning or limiting the use of specific chemicals in specific products (i.e. mercury, copper, asbestos) to its more robust reporting program passed in 2008, the Children’s Safe Product Act (CSPA). CSPA requires that manufacturers of children’s products sold in the state report if their product contains a chemical of high concern to children. The state Department of Ecology (DOE) created a list of 66 chemicals that were of high concern to children based on scientific evidence that the chemicals have been found in children’s products or have been found in human issue. DOE collects information from manufacturers in order to be better informed about the chemicals in these products. The law also limits the amount of lead, cadmium, and phthalates allowed in children’s products. Currently there are no requirements for the use of safer alternatives or prohibitions for the sale of products containing certain chemicals.

Other states with similar reporting programs include Maine, with its Toxic Chemicals in Children’s Products law, and Minnesota’s Toxic Free Kids Act.

The new legislation seeks to add the following elements to Washington’s program:

  • By January 1, 2018, require DOE to adopt by rule a list of no more than 150 priority chemicals;
  • By January 1, 2018, require DOE to select 20 of the priority chemicals for potential chemical action plan (CAP) development;
  • Allow DOE to require manufacturers of products containing a priority chemical to report information in order to develop CAPs, including an estimate of the number of products containing the chemical that the manufacturer sells in Washington each year;
  • Beginning July 1, 2018 and every 2 years after, require DOE to select up to 4 priority chemicals for the development of a CAP and allow the public an opportunity for review and comment before finalizing a schedule;
  • Allow DOE to require manufactures to conduct alternatives assessments (AAs) and prepare a summary report of all reviewed AAs and determine whether a safer alternative exists; DOE would seek public comment on the determination;
  • If DOE determines that a safer alternative exists, DOE will, by rule, prohibit specific uses of the chemical, or prohibit the sale, offer for sale, or distribution of a specific product or products containing the chemical;
  • Civil penalties for manufacturers who violate a requirement in this chapter of up to $5,000 for each violation, and up to $10,000 for each repeat offense; and
  • Establish purchasing and procurement policies that provide a preference for products and products in packaging that do not contain priority Washington chemicals.

An alternative bill has also been introduced in the Senate, SB 5056, that would not expand Washington’s program so drastically. This bill would require the listing of priority chemicals and development of CAPs, but stops short of requiring alternative assessments or allowing for bans of products containing priority chemicals.  

ACA will continue to monitor the progress of the Washington legislation as well as a number of other state initiatives germane to chemicals management in play this year. At the federal level, ACA is actively supporting efforts to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) in order to have strong federal preemption, improve the public confidence in the regulation of chemicals, support innovation, and create a consistent, certain, and clear regulatory environment for chemicals in commerce.

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