Congress Has Historic Opportunity to Modernize U.S. Chemicals Law

Wednesday, Oct 07, 2015, 2:30pm

by David Isaacs, Vice President, Government Affairs

On Oct. 11, 1976, the primary federal law pertaining to federal oversight of the production and use of chemicals, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), was enacted. The law has not been updated since, and there is widespread consensus from a wide range of stakeholders that the law needs to be reformed. In the coming weeks, the Senate may have a chance to approve legislation (S. 697) that would modernize federal chemicals law. SIA supports this legislation and urges its swift approval.


In June, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved the TSCA Modernization Act of 2015 (H.R. 2576), legislation that would enhance the protection of health and the environment, while also providing the semiconductor industry and other sectors with certainty in the selection and use of chemicals. A bill pending in the Senate, the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (S. 697), has broad bipartisan support – it currently has 60 co-sponsors.

How would this legislation impact the semiconductor industry? The manufacture of advanced semiconductors requires the carefully controlled use of specific chemicals and materials, and in most cases, there are no viable alternatives to these chemicals. In addition, finished semiconductor devices may contain very small quantities of certain chemicals, and the complex manufacturing equipment necessary for the production of semiconductors may also contain these same chemicals. Thus, the sound regulation of the chemicals used in our processes and equipment is of critical importance to the U.S. semiconductor industry.

The legislation under consideration would strengthen the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to evaluate, prioritize, and take action on chemicals that pose risks to health and the environment, while providing industry with increased assurance in their selection of chemicals. The bills direct EPA to assess chemicals based on their conditions of use and potential for exposure, and given the management practices in our industry and small quantities of chemicals used, this approach to assessment and prioritization should allow EPA to focus on chemicals and uses that pose the greatest risks. In addition, where EPA takes action on chemicals that pose an unreasonable risk, the bills would allow EPA to consider costs and the feasibility and safety of alternatives in setting a safety standard. In light of the challenge of identifying and incorporating potential substitutes into our processes, SIA strongly supports this approach.

In 1976, the year TSCA was enacted, Gerald Ford was President, Rocky won the Academy Award for Best Picture, and Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak founded a small tech startup called Apple. Reforms to this important law are long overdue, and the time for action is now. We urge the Senate to reach an agreement to move forward on considering this bill and approve S. 697, and then work with the House to send a compromise bill to the President for his signature.