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TSCA Reform Storm Passes; Coal Tar Bans Continue

Most Americans know that feeling. Storms are predicted. Threat levels are real. Then it flashes...blows...rumbles... rattles... s...

Most Americans know that feeling. Storms are predicted. Threat levels are real. Then it flashes...blows...rumbles... rattles... shakes...drenches and most the time we emerge with a sense of relief that the worst didn't happen… this time.

That is the sense I get when I think of the TSCA (Toxic Substances Control Act) legislation which was passed the U.S. House of Representatives just before Memorial Day. It is a rewrite of an ineffective law that was passed in the 1970s.

Initial concerns were reported that it might take away the authority for communities to pass the ban of coal tar pavement sealants under a term called "pre-emption." Preemption is the ability or authority of the federal government to overrule or prevent a community from regulating a chemical.

Technically the language of the bill gives similar authority to states and "political subdivisions of states," which are cities, towns, townships and counties.

While I have spent some hours trying to unravel the compromise bill's details, a much more fruitful reading is someone else's expert analysis. I found that Richard Denison's excellent, two page summary is a good start. He is with the Environmental Defense Fund.

My takeaway from that? Local bans of anything can continue UNTIL the EPA makes an announcement that they will study a chemical and work toward a decision. They are scheduled make their first shortlist of 20 or so chemicals in 6 months and I suspect coal tar won't be on that list because it appears they want to lump that in with a discussion of creosote.

Creosote is the stuff you coat telephone poles and railroad ties with. That is an unfortunate marriage between a critical infrastructure chemical with no suitable substitutes (creosote) with one that isn't critical with substitutes (coal tar sealers).

Add to this a possible exemption if it is water quality related, then you can see why bans should continue.

If the EPA did announce a study of PAHs, then from the time that announcement is made, local regulations will pause for 3 years or so while it is studied. If they don't complete it on time, then bans can begin again.

There is a provision for communities to petition the EPA to allow them to continue during this period. It seems reasonable to expect EPA to grant it to those contemplating a coal tar sealer ban. Here's why: banning coal tar sealers is based upon solid research by numerous state, federal and university studies. We know enough that these products present a clear and defined danger to the community and putting off their regulation would unnecessarily endanger our citizens.

Annapolis Leads the Way 

Last week the City of Annapolis, Maryland passed a ban of coal tar sealers. They are the first to do so since the final TSCA language was released. Their leadership is appreciated!

More Bans Coming

Word from my sources around the country is that jurisdictions have plenty of resolve to see these through. Where? Now wouldn't you and the PCTC want to know?

Confusion Persists

We also heard a discussion of the new TSCA law on The Diane Rehm Show on NPR. Annalisa Peace of the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance called in and asked two simple questions:
  1.  Would a ban of coal tar sealer passed after April 22, 2016 (a date listed in the bill) be preempted and no longer be effective?
  2. What about bans that are currently proposed, like San Antonio? If they pass a ban will it still be valid?
The first person said the communities should contact the EPA to let them know about it. That won't help because they already know.

The industry representative said that is why we need reform since manufacturers can't be expected to make different products for every community out there. (Actually we are only talking about two or three versions of a product not some infinite combination).

A representative of the Environmental Working Group, who official opposed the bill, talked about the problems of preemption after the EPA announces that they will study a chemical. Sorry, that wasn't the question. I've included the audio clip if you'd like to listen to it.

Check this out on Chirbit

Just yesterday the Director of the Huron River Watershed Council (Michigan) said efforts to control the use of coal tar sealers said efforts in their region were"picking up steam."

That is what we need and we hope we can continue to make our communities safer until the next legislative storm hits.


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Coal Tar Free America: TSCA Reform Storm Passes; Coal Tar Bans Continue
TSCA Reform Storm Passes; Coal Tar Bans Continue
Coal Tar Free America
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