Monday, July 04, 2016

Today's Congress passes a stronger environmental law than in the 1970s

So that's not supposed to happen. The 1970s were the heydays of passing environmental laws, when Republicans made something of an effort to be second-best to Democrats on environmental issues.  The idea that today's Republican Party, of all the Republican Parties, would do something more sensible than it did 40 years ago seems impossible. Still that's what the Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act represents as a major improvement over the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976, in large part by gradually ending the "grandfathering" of chemicals in existend prior to TSCA's enactment.

This improvement is partly because it's measured against the baseline of TSCA which was one of the weakest of the major environmental laws to pass in the 70s. That may have something to do with it being one of the later ones, by which point industry had started to catch on that these laws could have a meaningful impact on their business, and moved in to keep TSCA from doing the same. Still, the craziest Republican Party in modern history improved upon it. Why?

Environmental Defense Fund's Insider Podcast is helpful. They point out two reasons:  first that TSCA is so clearly inadequate that states began experimenting with their own regulatory controls - a mishmash of systems that did not enthuse chemical manufacturers. Second, to put it indelicately, is that cancer also kills powerful Republicans and their relatives. When a cancer has no obvious explanation, Republicans also wonder if living in at most lightly-regulated chemical soup could be problematic.

How much this translates to hope for climate change is unclear. State regulation does follow a parallel path, and one of the things enviros gave up to get the new law was easy state regulation, it's now pre-empted except through a waiver process. That may be a price for climate legislation in Congress, should it ever happen.

Perceptibly affecting powerful Republicans isn't as clear - they're already affected but don't perceive it. Maybe sea level rise will do it for coastal state Republicans, a few hurricanes from now.


David B. Benson said...

Unlikely any time soon in North Carolina.

Howard said...

More homeopathic prayer circles for the environmental religion. The cancer scares are just as likely caused by other factors, like longer life, genetics, and mass intake of chemicals that alter gut bacteria via smoking, drinking, sugar, white bread and red meat.

It would make more sense to update the clean water acts to include more controls on agricultural nutrient loading and groundwater mining. The clean air act should be amended to include local effects of toxic and particulate pollution rather than average effects... this is a serious environmental justice loophole.

Russell Seitz said...

Will this be the year a bien pensant AAAS Congressional Fellow catches up on his back issues of Science, reads

Ames, B.N., R. Magaw, and L. Gold. Ranking Possible Carcinogenic Hazards. Science 236:271-80.

and drafts The Pluripotent Carcinogenic Ethnic Food Ban of 2016 , to save us from beer, bread crust, mushrooms , pepper & pesto ?

Don't pass the popcorn- the charred bits are fullof benzopyrans.