Sen. Manchin’s chemical bill: What about federal ‘overreach’ that blocks tough safety rules?

August 14, 2013 by Ken Ward Jr.

Sen. Joe Manchin
We’ve written before (see here. here and here) about legislation crafted in part by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., to finally rewrite the nation’s toxic chemical safety law.

Well, it turns out that a number of states around the country aren’t too happy with this bill. They’re worried that Congress is attempting to override their own steps to enact tougher safety rules for chemicals and for other environmental threats like climate change. As we wrote in a story late last month:

A major rewrite of the way the nation regulates toxic chemicals is under fire from states that say the bill — co-sponsored by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. — usurps their authority to set their own safety standards.

The debate over which level of government should take the lead on chemical safety comes after Manchin’s repeated complaints that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency oversteps its authority on mountaintop removal and other coal industry issues.

Covering a hearing of the Senate Committee on Energy and Public Works, we explained:

Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said she is concerned that the bill could roll back her state’s landmark 1986 law to protect consumers from toxic materials. California officials also are worried that the bill could undermine the state’s water quality laws and its efforts to combat global warming.

Michael Troncoso, senior counsel to California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris, testified about the matter during Wednesday’s hearing. So did Ken Zarker, pollution prevention and regulatory assistance section manager at the Washington State Department of Ecology.

Troncoso submitted a letter signed by attorneys general in Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon, Vermont and Washington state to “urge Congress not to undermine the traditional role of the states in protecting their citizens from toxic chemicals.

“The federal government must regulate chemical safety so that there is a minimum level of protection across the nation,” Troncoso told lawmakers. “At the same time, we urge the committee to recognize and honor the long-standing authority of the states to act alongside the federal government to protect the health, safety and welfare of their citizens — to act as laboratories of innovation in the area of toxics regulation and to tackle the problem of dangerous chemicals as a partner with the federal government.”

morriseyAnother West Virginia public official who has made a lot of noise about ensuring that the federal government doesn’t usurp the rights of states to chart their own course on environmental regulations is Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (see here and here). Given his interest in protecting the rights of states, I thought it would be interesting to see what he thought of Sen. Manchin’s legislation. When West Virginia leaders fight federal efforts to crack down on the coal industry, is their effort about protecting the rights of states, or is it more about helping industries avoid tougher regulations?

So on Aug. 2, a couple of days after the Senate hearing, I asked Morrisey’s publicist, Beth Ryan:

Given his interest in ensuring no federal overreach onto the authority of states, I wondered if Attorney General Morrisey or his staff have looked at this legislation and have any thoughts on it, particularly regarding the concerns expressed by other states about pre-emption of their chemical safety rules.

Today, I heard back from Ms. Ryan. Here’s what she said:

The Office of the Attorney General has no comment on this issue.

 

One Response to “Sen. Manchin’s chemical bill: What about federal ‘overreach’ that blocks tough safety rules?”

  1. Ted says:

    No surprise that Morrisey has no comment.

    Another thought: perhaps Manchin truly is concerned about toxic chemicals & effects on the public, but I have sneaking suspicions that this will somehow benefit industry. My memory is a little hazy, but didn’t Joe & his wife try to put a hazardous waste incinerator on the site of the old Howe’s Leather plant in Frank, WV (Pocahontas County, near Durbin)?

    It’s been a long time, perhaps before he ran for Secretary of State. A quick google search didn’t turn up anything but that was definitely in the dark days prior to easy internet searches.

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