Detoxifying Congressional politics | Don Brunell

Thankfully, June 8 marked a milestone for Congress. Members came together and overwhelmingly approved a sweeping bill that regulates tens of thousands of toxic chemicals in everyday products, from household cleaners to clothing and furniture.

Thankfully, June 8 marked a milestone for Congress. Members came together and overwhelmingly approved a sweeping bill that regulates tens of thousands of toxic chemicals in everyday products, from household cleaners to clothing and furniture.

The legislation capped more than three years of arduous work by Republicans and Democrats and business and environmental leaders who systematically plowed through volumes of complex, confusing and sometime contradicting state and federal environmental laws and regulations dealing with toxic chemicals.

It updates the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act to require the Environmental Protection Agency to evaluate new and existing chemicals against a new, risk-based safety standard that includes considerations for particularly vulnerable people such as children and pregnant women.

It also establishes written deadlines for the EPA to act and makes it tougher for the industry to claim chemical information is proprietary and therefore secret.

Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., one of the bill’s chief sponsors, told Associated Press correspondent Matthew Daly: “for the first time in 40 years, the United States of America will have a chemical safety program that works … and protects families from dangerous chemicals in their daily lives.”

“The new bill requires the EPA to set priorities for substances with the greatest likelihood of presenting a risk to the public and establishes a process that’s both effective and not unnecessarily onerous on companies so that beneficial products can get to market,” Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa said in an interview with Kent Hoover, national bureau chief of Biz Journals. “This will help both job creation and retention, and environmental concerns.”

Although the legislation has wide support, it has some detractors.

“At issue here are potential new hurdles, delays and restrictions on states’ ability to enact their own restrictions on toxics. Instead of being a national leader on controlling toxic chemicals, Washington will now have to fall in line behind the feds and wait for EPA to take the lead,” Rob Duff, chief of staff on environmental issues for Gov. Jay Inslee (D) told the Seattle Times in May.

However, the 181-page bill specifies that any state law or rule in place before April 22 would not be pre-empted by federal law.

Importantly, the national legislation sets new safety standards for asbestos and other dangerous chemicals, including formaldehyde, styrene and Bisphenol A, better known as BPA, that have gone largely unregulated for decades.

While in Washington State, lawmakers and interest groups have their share of differences and disagreements, they have a history of working together on key sensitive environmental issues.

In the early 1980s, business, environmental and legislative leaders came together to streamline our State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA). The changes, pushed by Gov. John Spellman (R), enabled SEPA applicants to focus on an environmental checklist of significant concerns for projects.

In 1999, the landmark Forest and Fish Law brought together tribal, environmental, business and government leaders. Gov. Gary Locke (D) signed the bipartisan bill aimed at protecting water quality for fish, wildlife and people while allowing logging, tree planting and forest management on private forestlands.

In 2002, business, environmental, municipal and state leaders came together to hammer out rules governing activities along our state’s shorelines. Then Attorney General Christine Gregoire (D) helped mediate an out-of-court settlement of conflicting litigation. Locke pushed the agreement through the legislature with bipartisan support.

The bottom line is our system will work, if people are willing to set aside difference and come together for the common good. While it is a long and bumpy road, in the end, we are all better served by laws which are clear, logical and function efficiently.

Warning: Patience, persistence and understanding are required.

More in Business

GE’s tumble from grace | Don Brunell

General Electric, once the world’s most valuable company, has been topped by Walgreens.

Vintage items, gifts and more at new Enumclaw shop

Featuring an eclectic mix of merchandise, partners Tori Ammons and Melissa Oglesbee… Continue reading

The role models around us

Sometimes, being a good role model is a good business decision, too.

Seattle’s misstep highlights need for new approach

Last week, Seattle’s City Council did an “about face” revoking the onerous… Continue reading

Washington’s expensive culvert court case

Too much money is spent in court where it should go to increasing the salmon population

Straw pulp looks like a game changer

250,000 tons of straw will soon be pulped for paper products.

Bad labels tough to shed

Seattle’s going to have a hard time battling the “anti-business” label.

Lt. Dan needs lots of helping hands

Gary Sinise formed the “Lt. Dan Band” in early 2004 and they began entertaining troops serving at home and abroad. Sinise often raised the money to pay the band and fund its travel.

New Enumclaw wine bar aims for broad audience

Bordeaux Wine Bar is scheduled to be open Wednesdays through Sundays.

Streamlining regulations makes more housing affordable

There were over 21,000 people homeless in Washington State last year.

New approaches needed to fight super wildfires | Don Brunell

Last year, wildfires nationwide consumed 12,550 square miles, an area larger than Maryland.

Skilled trade jobs go unfilled in our robust economy

Known as blue collar jobs, they routinely pay $45,000 to $65,000 a year or more.