UPDATE & ACTION ALERT | Chemical Regulation and Liability Bill Introduced in Senate, Could See Swift Action as Soon as Next Week

The Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee last week began in earnest its review of S.103, the Senate version of the broad chemical regulation and legal liability legislation previously introduced in the House as H.268.

S.103 could significantly impact most manufacturers and many retailers in the state and beyond.  All manufacturers, retailers selling any chemical or consumer products, and related businesses are strongly encouraged to review the bill and to contact AIV at info@aivt.org to learn more about the status and prospects for the bill and to discuss options for your company to weigh in or otherwise engage on this issue.  Some or all of the provisions of the bill could see rapid action next week when the Legislature reconvenes and priority bills are pushed toward initial passage.

The provisions of the Senate bill are substantially the same as the House bill, which you can review in the related post linked here.  AIV testified on the bill last Wednesday, outlining a number of concerns and recommending a more reasonable and appropriate way forward.

The following are highlights of the issues with the bill:

  • Toxics Use Reduction reporting and planning requirements are costly and burdensome for companies already covered under the law (click here for the ANR webpage and click here for the statutes, 10 VSA §6623-§6632). By reopening thresholds triggering compliance, requiring certified planners, and expanding the list of chemicals covered, S.103 could significantly increase costs for these and many more manufacturers.  It should be noted that in addition to the expanded scope included in the bill as introduced, supporters advocate inclusion of certain lists addressed in Massachusetts or California laws that could increase the number of chemicals covered from more than 300 to more than 2400.
  • S.103 could result in significant increases in information about companies’ chemical storage and usage being made public without necessarily addressing security concerns or ensuring that the public will understand that chemicals are being used safely and legally.
  • Provisions in S.103 allowing citizen suits to enforce waste management regulations, liability for medical monitoring costs for alleged exposure without connection to actual health impacts, and liability for personal and property damages related even to legal and permitted use of chemicals raise serious concerns about nuisance suits, lowered and questionable evidentiary thresholds, and a generally uncertain and costly liability environment.
  • Chemical testing and reporting for children’s products under existing law (18 VSA Chapter 38A) can already be costly and administratively burdensome. By expanding the scope of the existing law to most all consumer products, S.103 would increase burdens across many more manufacturers without clear health or safety benefits, given that chemical reporting thresholds are not based on risk related amounts or exposure pathways.
  • In addition to broadening the scope of the statutes cited above to most all consumer products, S.103 would also weaken the authority of stakeholders in decisions to restrict or otherwise regulate specific products and would undermine the scientific standards and thresholds needed to support such regulations.
  • Additionally, it remains to be assessed what the full impact could be of banning dental floss and food contact substances that contain any form of PFAS.

On the positive side, AIV supports working with some variation on the inter-agency advisory committee called for in S.103 to look at reforming and streamlining existing chemical reporting laws and considering commonsense, affordable, and practical ways to increase basic information for state agencies as to what chemicals are in use where in the state to adequately address potential health or environmental concerns in the future.  However, questions of how comprehensive such “inventory” reporting would be reasonable and affordable remain to be addressed.

The pace of action on S.103 is somewhat uncertain, but it appears that one or more core provisions could be acted on by the Committee as soon as the end of next week.  With the legislative “crossover” deadline — the date by which bills are supposed to be passed by their original committee in either the House or Senate if they are to be taken up by the other chamber this year — expected for March 17, there has been word that the bill could be split into different parts by topic and taken up by different committees.

As noted above, all manufacturers, retailers carrying chemical products, and other potentially impacted businesses are strongly urged to review the bill and to contact us at info@aivt.org to learn more and discuss options for possible involvement.  If you might be interested in contacting legislators or even providing testimony before legislation is voted on in committee or the Senate as a whole, it is especially important to contact us soon.