UPDATED | Action Alert | Round Up of Key Chemical Bills

Four major bills addressing chemical regulatory issues of interest to Vermont manufacturers are currently or soon to be under review in House committees following action in the Senate.  Members are strongly encouraged to familiarize themselves with these bills and to contact us at info@aivt.org for more updates and information about options for engaging with legislators.

S.37: Strict Liability and Medical Monitoring Liability

As reported previously, S.37 would impose strict liability for any harm associated with the release of a chemical covered under a wide ranging definition of “toxics”.  It would also impose wide ranging liability for medical monitoring associated with almost any exposure to such chemicals.  For more background on the substance of the bill and key points, see related post here.

The bill passed the Senate earlier this session and is now before the House Judiciary Committee.  During the Committee’s initial walk through of the bill on March 21, AIV again outlined the key issues of concern with the bill, recommending eliminating the strict liability provisions and outlining changes to the criteria for medical monitoring that could make the legislation more reasonable if it reflected certain standards established in the courts of other states.

Even with such changes, however, the bill would still be concerning.  AIV continues to coordinate efforts of Vermont and national stakeholders to engage on this bill and seek to defeat it or significantly amend it to address its serious problems.  With the Committee likely returning to the bill as soon as next week, members are strongly urged to review the bill and consider contacting Committee members and your own representatives, or to contact us at info@aivt.org for more information and to learn more about different ways to engage on this bill.

See links below for the latest version of the bill and key contact information:

To review the current version of S.37 as passed the Senate, click here.

To see the bill as introduced, click here.

To find contact information for the House Judiciary Committee, click here.

To find contact information for your Representatives, click here.

To contact House Speaker Mitzi Johnson:  (802) 828-2245  |  speaker@leg.state.vt.us

 

S.55: Standards for Adding Chemicals to Product Testing and Reporting and for Banning or Regulating Products

S.55 would undermine existing standards for adding new chemicals to the statute requiring testing and reporting for certain chemicals in children’s products, as well as undermining criteria for banning or otherwise regulating products containing such chemicals.  For more background on the substance of the bill and key points, see related post here.

Following testimony by AIV and other stakeholders, the Senate Health and Welfare Committee made two changes to S.55 as introduced that modified language of concern to manufacturers, although these changes do not fully address problems with the bill.

First, the bill as introduced eliminated the requirement that the addition of new chemicals to the testing and reporting requirements of the law be supported by the “weight of scientific evidence”, an important standard in science to ensure credibility, and instead allowed decisions to be based on any peer reviewed study, which would allow cherry picking of evidence and relying on arbitrary fringe “science”.  The draft was amended to restore a requirement of “credibility”.  This is not as strong as the existing statute; however, it is in line with Washington state, alignment with which has been an important part of debates over the statute since it’s enactment, and it can allow for rulemaking to make clearer what standards are required for credibility.

Second, the bill as introduced would have required testing and reporting on new products prior to sale.  The current law provides for regular, biennial reporting.  Requiring reporting prior to sale could create additional administrative burdens and costs on manufacturers, especially smaller ones, and would put Vermont reporting requirements and schedules further out of sync with other states when, instead, greater coordination and reciprocity is a key policy goal identified in the law.  The draft was amended to direct the Department of Health to establish rules for testing and reporting on products introduced for sale between regular reporting schedules.  This raises the potential for complications but does kick the issue down the road to eventual rulemaking, which could keep the current schedule effectively intact.

Neither of the changes outlined above really address the problems with changing the current law.  Moreover, two significant concerns with the bill remain entirely unaddressed.  First, the bill would allow the Department of Health to ban or otherwise regulate covered products without direction from the Chemicals of High Concern to Children Working Group, which includes representatives of a range of stakeholders, including manufacturers.  Current law requires the Working Group to direct the Department to initiate rulemaking on products first.  Second, and most significantly, the bill eliminates the requirement that a product has to pose a probable health threat before it is subjected to bans or other regulations.  Current law requires first that a product be shown to allow exposure to a chemical of concern and second that the exposure creates a health concern.  The bill would therefore authorize bans or restrictions on products even if they do not pose a probable health threat.

The bill was recently passed by the Senate and this week was referred to the House Human Services Committee.

AIV strongly supports keeping the existing statutory provisions addressed in S.55 rather than making changes.  We are willing to engage with the Legislature and stakeholders to explore alternative language that preserves the underlying integrity and credibility of the provisions in question, however.  As with S.37 discussed above, AIV continues to coordinate efforts of Vermont and national stakeholders to engage on this bill and seek to defeat it or significantly amend it to address its serious problems.

With the Committee taking the bill in the near future, members are strongly urged to review the current version of the bill and consider contacting Committee members and your own representatives, or to contact us at info@aivt.org for more information and to learn more about different ways to engage on this bill.

See links below for the latest version of the bill and key contact information:

To review the current version of S.55 as passed the Senate, click here.

To see the bill as introduced, click here.

To find contact information for the House Human Services Committee, click here.

To find contact information for your Representatives, click here.

To contact House Speaker Mitzi Johnson:  (802) 828-2245  |  speaker@leg.state.vt.us

 

S.113: Banning Plastic Bags and Expanded Polystyrene, Studying Regulation of Single Use Packaging and Manufacturer Financial and Administrative Mandates

S.113 would ban single-use plastic carry-out bags from stores and food service providers, add a $0.10 charge to paper bags, require that food service providers only provide plastic straws upon customer request, and ban expanded polystyrene food service products (except packaging of food for import into or export out of the state, and for raw meat and fish).

Of additional concern, however, is that the bill would create a Single-Use Products Working Group.  The group, which would be heavily weighted with representatives of stakeholders other than manufacturers, would be charged with making recommendations regarding the management of single-use packaging and printed materials. In particular, it would be charged with considering whether and how to impose extended producer responsibility costs and administrative mandates on manufacturers of single-use packaging and printed materials.  The potential recommendations of the group could have wide ranging consequences for such manufacturers and their customers in the state.

The bill is expected to be up for a final vote on the Senate floor Tuesday and then be taken up in the House.

AIV supports striking product bans pending recommendations from a study committee, and amending the study committee make up and charge to provide greater balance for manufacturers and the concerns of them and their customers.  We will be working with coalition partners on these priorities in the House.

See links below for the latest version of the bill and key contact information:

To review the current version of S.113 as currently on the Senate floor, click here.  (See page 924 of the Senate Calendar)

To see the bill as introduced, click here.

To find contact information for your Senators, click here.

 

S.49:  PFAS Testing and Regulation

S.49 would require extensive and intensive testing of public water systems for five PFAS chemicals, specifically perfluorooctanoic acid, perfluorooctane sulfonic acid, perfluorohexane sulfonic acid, perfluorononanoic acid, and perfluoroheptanoic acid.  The frequency of testing and any treatment and remediation requirements would based on a Vermont Department of Health directed standard of 20 parts per trillion of any one or combination of these PFAS chemicals.  The bill would also require rulemaking for these PFAS chemicals in various water quality regulatory regimes, including the Water Supply Rule.

The bill provides for investigating potential sources for any PFAS contamination.  The bill would also allow ANR to require any entity permitted by the agency to monitor the operation of a facility, discharge, emission, or release for any constituent for which the Department of Health has established a health advisory.  ANR may impose conditions on a permitted entity based on the health advisory if it determines that the operation of the facility, discharge, emission, or release may result in “an imminent and substantial endangerment to human health or the natural environment”.  This authority would last up to two years from the date the health advisory was adopted.

With the provisions outlined above, S.49 entails extensive and expensive testing and sets the stage for subsequent developments that could significantly impact manufacturers connected to PFAS chemicals.  AIV continues to work with coalition partners to assess the implications of the bill and engage with legislators on key issues, and members are strongly urged to review the bill and to contact us at info@aivt.org for more information and to learn more about different ways to engage on this bill.

See links below for the latest version of the bill and key contact information:

To review the current version of S.49 as passed the Senate, click here.

To see the bill as introduced, click here.

To find contact information for the House Natural Resources, Fish, and Wildlife Committee, click here.

To find contact information for your Representatives, click here.

To contact House Speaker Mitzi Johnson:  (802) 828-2245  |  speaker@leg.state.vt.us