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The End of State Coal Tar Bans As We Know It

The following letter comes from Andy Igrejas of the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families group. In it he lets us know that if a version of a bi...

The following letter comes from Andy Igrejas of the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families group. In it he lets us know that if a version of a bill is reconciled in Congress, a state's authority to ban toxic chemicals would be blocked. We have seen with coal tar sealers a toothless EPA and a distracted Congress pushes the safety of our communities down to the state and local level. Please join me in contacting your representatives to prevent this portion of the bill from becoming law.


As you know, both the House and Senate passed versions of TSCA reform last year. Our coalition articulated a vision for how to combine the best of both bills in a March 1st letter that many of you signed.

Staff from both chambers have been working since to reconcile the two bills into final legislation and they are expected to bring it to the floor of both houses next week.

This part of the legislative process is often the most secretive, and there is a lot of uncertainty, which has made advocacy difficult. Nevertheless, most indications we've had have been reasonably positive, with one major exception:states could be blocked from restricting a toxic chemical even when EPA action is years away. The prohibition on state action (called "preemption") is triggered when EPA prioritizes a chemical and publishes the scope of its prospective review. The process could take up to four years for EPA to make a safety decision, and an additional three before EPA puts needed restrictions in place.

We have opposed this provision all along. It was in the Senate bill, but not the House bill. The House bill does not preempt until EPA has either taken its own action or declared the chemical safe. The Senate, backed by the chemical industry, is insisting that preemption happen much earlier.

The early preemption is unprecedented as a policy and it has the effect of delaying needed public health interventions for up to four years. During that time, whatever population the state was planning to protect (fire fighters, pregnant women, etc.) will instead be exposed. That is why we are making a big deal about this: bottom line, this provision will result in people being exposed to toxic chemicals who otherwise wouldn't be.

So please take the time to contact your congressional delegation (sample call language below), particularly in the House, both Republicans and Democrats. Urge them to oppose the Senate early preemption provision in any final legislation. In principle, it is an unprecedented intrusion on states' rights. In practice, it exposes people to toxic chemicals who would otherwise not be exposed.

On both grounds, therefore, it should be defeated.

If you don't communicate with your delegation this week, the provision could be law by the end of next week.

If you have any questions about the policy details, your own Congressional delegation, or you need more materials, please don't hesitate to contact me (, Liz Hitchock (, or Beth Kemler (  



PS: Get your members and coalition partners to call Congress too!

Sample Call To Congress

I’m calling to express my concern about the conference of the two chemical safety reform bills that the House and Senate both passed last year. I understand that final legislation could come to the floor of both chambers under bill number HR 2576 as early as next week.

The chemical lobby has mounted a major push to ensure that a Senate provision that prohibits states from restricting a toxic chemical while EPA reviews the safety of that chemical is included in the final package. This is an unprecedented intrusion on states' rights.

States have led the way in restricting toxic chemicals, most recently in the area of toxic flame retardants. Several bills to restrict flame retardants are currently pending in state legislatures - supported by firefighters. The Senate bill’s provision would shut that activity down.

That would lead to a delay of up to four years before any action was taken -- a delay that would result in potentially millions of people being exposed to toxic chemicals who otherwise would not be.

The House version of reform did not include this provision and it must not be in the final bill. Representative/Senator [__________] should stand strong against any bill that blocks states from protecting their citizens from toxic chemicals.


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Coal Tar Free America: The End of State Coal Tar Bans As We Know It
The End of State Coal Tar Bans As We Know It
Coal Tar Free America
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