Senate Democrats, including Barbara Boxer (Calif.), said in a statement that while the bill “has many good provisions,” it also “includes two provisions that threaten public health and could set back wildlife conservation efforts.”
The other contentious provision is the one-time importation of polar bear trophies, authored by Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho).
Boxer and Democratic Sens. Frank R. Lautenberg (N.J.) and John F. Kerry (Mass.) had authored amendments aimed at tweaking the bill, but no amendments will be considered when the bill comes up for a vote.
The dispute presents an awkward moment for environmental groups, several of which worked hard to ensure Tester’s reelection this month.
Daniel Rosenberg, a senior attorney at the advocacy group Natural Resources Defense Council, questioned why the Senate would vote on the bill, which has not been subject to a full hearing and committee markup.
“There is simply no justification for making any of these changes to our nation’s chemical control law [the Toxic Substances Control Act], and particularly for rushing it forward without the benefit of any scrutiny or comment by the Senate itself or members of the public,” Rosenberg said.
An aide to Tester said the measure would have no effect on the EPA’s current work on whether to establish limits on perchlorate exposure. The EPA declined to comment on the matter, noting that the administration has endorsed the bill.
Backers of the legislation say it would boost the economy as well as foster conservation by promoting outdoor recreation.
Whit Fosburgh, president of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, said critics were misinterpreting the bill’s environmental impact. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service banned the use of lead ammunition in waterfowl hunting in 1991, he noted, and could take further action if needed.
“It shouldn’t be controversial for anybody,” Fosburgh said. “The Fish and Wildlife Service, not EPA, is the proper place to regulate lead. . . . There’s a genuine fear of an EPA overreach on this.”
Fishing and hunting groups have resisted a total phaseout of lead in their gear, mainly because non-toxic metals are much more expensive. Gordon Robertson, vice president of the American Sportfishing Association, noted that lures made of steel and tungsten are more costly, and steel is less malleable. He added that the elemental lead in lures is less toxic than other forms of the metal.