Center for Biological Diversity

Protecting endangered species and wild places through
science, policy, education, and environmental law.


Jeff Miller, Center for Biological Diversity, (510) 499-9185
Peter Galvin, Conservation Director, Center for Biological Diversity, (520) 907-1533

Broad-Based Coalition Forms to Oppose Bill
Threatening Public Health and States’ Rights

Bush Administration Attempts to Prevent States from Regulating Toxic Chemicals

Dozens of organizations, scientists and U.S. citizens today expressed strong opposition to pending legislation to change the nation’s toxic pollution laws, stating in a joint letter to all members of Congress that the bill would jeopardize public health and seriously undermine states’ rights. The groups represent environmental, public health, labor and Native American interests across the United States and join a number of others who are sounding the alarm bell on this bill.

On July 12, the House Energy and Commerce Committee passed House Resolution 4591 (Paul Gillmor, R-Ohio), which would allow the federal government to preempt and block state and local government standards that ban or restrict the use of toxic chemicals. More than a dozen state attorneys general, the American Nurses Association and more than 65 environmental and public health groups have already announced their opposition to the legislation.

“This is a cynical effort to undermine an international treaty to eliminate some of the world's most harmful chemicals, and yet another blatant attack on states’ rights to limit toxic chemicals,” said Peter Galvin, Conservation Director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Bush administration and Republicans in Congress are again trying to ensure that chemical industry interests will win out over public health and environmental protections.”

The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants will be held in May 2007 and is a landmark international agreement phasing out an entire class of dangerous chemicals. The treaty requires the elimination of or severe restrictions on the use of a “dirty dozen” toxic chemicals – such as DDT, dioxins, PCBs and the pesticide chlordane – that can accumulate up the food chain and are linked to health effects that include allergies, cancer, birth defects and damage to the immune and reproductive systems of humans and other species. More than 125 nations have already signed the agreement, including the United States when it signed the treaty more than five years ago. However, Congress has yet to ratify it or make necessary amendments to federal laws governing industrial chemicals and pesticides. The Bush administration has now seized this opportunity to further undermine the right of state and local governments to regulate toxic chemicals.

HR 4591 would modify the Toxic Substances Control Act to create loopholes that allow the chemical industry to keep producing and selling toxic agents. The legislation would allow the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – currently under fire from its own scientists for approving harmful pesticides without adequate scientific review – to disregard the findings of international public health specialists, scientists and policy experts who make recommendations under the Convention. It could also delay the phasing out of known harmful chemicals by requiring the EPA to use a cost-benefit standard rather than a health standard when determining whether to ban chemicals in pesticides or industrial products. The EPA would have no clear timetable for regulating pollutants banned by the treaty, and there would be no citizen participation process to challenge the EPA’s actions.

This is the latest effort by the Bush administration and the Republican-led Congress to provide their industry allies with weaker national standards for environmental, public health and consumer protections. It follows numerous other attempts to weaken these protections by restricting the rights of state and local governments to enact standards tougher than lax federal regulations. For example:

- The Bush administration and auto industry are working to prevent states from requiring cars to emit less carbon dioxide and other pollutants that cause global warming, using a federal law that gives Congress the authority to enact mileage standards.

- Federal officials teamed up with the auto industry to file a court challenge on California’s effort to curb pollution by increasing the sale of electric vehicles, forcing the state to retreat on its landmark action by arguing that only Congress can set gas-mileage standards.

- The Bush administration is forcing states to seek waivers to the federal Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act to regulate emissions and pollutants and then denying many of these waivers – including California's efforts to ban the toxic gasoline additive MTBE even though the chemical is known to be contaminating groundwater.

- Republican legislators are proposing legislation to give refiners and other energy producers more ability to skirt state and local laws governing the siting of facilities on federal land.

- The Bush administration is giving the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ultimate authority over where certain power transmission lines are placed and asserting that the federal government has sole authority over locating liquefied natural gas facilities offshore.

- The Bush administration is joining forces with industry in court to oppose food safety warnings, such as California's warning labels on tuna containing poisonous mercury.

Signatories to today’s letter opposing HR 4591 include the Center for Biological Diversity (Tucson, AZ), Alaska Community Action on Toxics (Anchorage, AK), Alliance for Sustainable Jobs and the Environment (Eureka, CA), American Academy of Environmental Medicine (Wichita, KS), American Bird Conservancy (Washington, DC), Breast Cancer Action (San Francisco, CA), Breast Cancer Fund (San Francisco, CA), Environment and Human Health, Inc., (North Haven, CT), Environmental Health Fund (Boston, MA), Ecology Center (Ann Arbor, MI), Families Against Cancer & Toxics (Tucson, AZ), For A Better Bronx (Bronx, NY), Grassroots Environmental Education (Port Washington, NY), Greenpeace Toxics Campaign (Washington, DC), Healthy Children Organizing Project (San Francisco, CA), Land Air Water- Environmental Law Society (Eugene, OR), National Research Center for Women & Families (Washington, DC), Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides (Eugene, OR), Ohio Citizen Action (Cleveland, OH), Oregon Toxics Alliance (Eugene, OR), Physicians for Social Responsibility, SF-Bay Area Chapter (Berkeley, CA), Responsible Consumers of Our Monterey Peninsula (Carmel, CA), Science and Environmental Health Network (Ames, IA), Sciencecorps (Lexington, MA), and Seventh Generation For Indian Development, Inc. (Arcata, CA).


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