Washington — The federal government will have enough funds to function through Dec. 9, thanks to a budget extension package passed Sept. 29 which also includes add-ons of interested to the plastics industry — and a few items of interest that didn't make it into the bill.
The deal includes $3 million for implementing the reformed Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) but did not restore full lending capability to the Export-Import Bank.
The stopgap spending bill had been held up over debate about financing for a new water system in lead-tainted Flint, Mich., where lead service lines continue to plague city residents and the plastic pipe industry continues preaching the benefits of polyethylene over copper.
In addition to maintaining government spending levels until after the election, the continuing resolution — which was approved by the Senate 72 to 26 and later by the house 342 to 85 — authorizes aid to Flint in separate legislation for water infrastructure projects.
Businesses and trade groups, including the plastics industry, long supported the TSCA update, which became law in June and was dubbed the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act. It marked the first update since 1976 to the law that regulates the manufacture, transportation, sale and use of thousands of chemicals, from resins to flame retardants.
But once the celebrations dissipated, quiet concern that the implementation of the new law would be adequately funded began to grow.
Under the new law, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has six months to begin safety evaluations of 10 from the list of 90 chemicals the agency has deemed of high priority for review under the new “worst first” methodology, among them bisphenol A, styrene and a handful of flame retardants.
The agency's chemical review and management budget is about $56 million in fiscal year 2016, which ended Oct. 1.
The additional $3 million in the budget extension to EPA for TSCA reform implementation means the opening salvo of 10 chemical evaluations under the new law will continue.
Lawmakers will still have to hash out a final fiscal 2017 spending package in a post-election, lame-duck session. Congress is expected to provide $65 million for the first year of reformed TSCA implementation, about a 16 percent increase over previous spending levels.
There was a hope that the continuing resolution would include language that would allow the Export-Import Bank of the United States to resume approving large deals. Currently, the Ex-Im bank is barred from making loans of more than $10 million if the board does not have a quorum. And since three of the board's five seats stand vacant, the export credit agency's hands are tied in many cases, even with reauthorization.