With Rand Paul's Reluctant Consent, Congress Grants EPA More Power

Posted: Jun 08, 2016 4:30 PM

“The EPA can now jail you for putting dirt on your own land,” Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said in a speech before the Senate Tuesday.

Paul was discussing the EPA’s powers granted in the Clean Waters Act, cautioning the Senate against potential changes in the Toxic Substances Control Act. If legislation is passed, the EPA will be allowed to personally decide how strictly it regulates the chemical industry.

Yesterday Paul retracted his objection to an amendment to the TSCA, allowing it to pass through the Senate. The House introduced the TSCA Modernization Act in May 2015, and passed it 403-12 on May 24, 2016. The Senate intended to approve it under unanimous consent on May 26, 2016, but Paul, as the sole objector to the bipartisan bill, stalled its progress. He suggested the lawmakers read the 180-page act before passing it on to the President for signing.

The amendment will shift chemical regulations from the state to the federal level:

TSCA's scope is revised by requiring the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate chemicals so that they no longer present unreasonable risks of injury to health or environment instead of requiring the EPA to provide adequate protection against those risks using the least burdensome requirements.

Paul criticized this shift, saying the act “abandoned principle” by moving the government’s focus from reducing regulations to “making regulations regular.” He cautioned the Senate that the amendment could negatively affect the economy, because it states that the economic impact of regulations cannot be considered before the EPA puts regulations into effect.

“I always thought that we should balance the environment and the economy,” he said.

The Plastics Industry applauded the act’s progress in a public statement, calling it the “first bipartisan TSCA update in 40 years.” William Carteaux, president and CEO of SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association, also praised the bill, saying:

This consensus-based bill is the product of thoughtful discussions by House and Senate negotiators.  It gives consumers the confidence in the products they depend upon each day, while giving companies a more predictable regulatory system that’s based on science rather than rhetoric.  The plastics industry also applauds lawmakers for ensuring that the new bill provides for the preservation of confidential business information, ensuring that the growth this bill is certain to unlock won’t be jeopardized.

Paul noted that many other businesses regret demanding for federal regulations to override restrictive state regulations. Hospitals, banks, and food distributors, he said, advocated for regulations at first but now face difficult standards.

“Does anyone remember ever seeing a limited, reasonable federal standard that stayed limited and reasonable?” Paul said.

Following Paul’s withdrawal of his objection, the Senate has passed the bill. The TSCA Modernization Act is now eligible to be signed into law by President Barack Obama.