Legislation pending in Congress could be Monsanto’s free pass to skate by accountability for PCB pollution. Lawmakers must just say no.

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AS the city of Seattle awaits its opportunity to hold Monsanto accountable in a court of law for its role in PCB pollution of the Duwamish River, there is much more to the story.

The New York Times reported recently that pending legislation in Congress to update the 40-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) would pre-empt states and localities from suing over polychlorinated biphenyls, or passing their own laws and regulations.

The point of the three dozen words deep in the U.S. House bill is to say this topic is entirely the legal turf of the federal government. Everyone else stay away.

House and Senate versions of the TSCA retooling await a conference committee to reconcile differences, but Seattle Assistant City Attorney Laura Wishik notes the House language has already been referenced in a PCB pollution case in Texas. Wishik is section director for environmental protection in the Seattle City Attorney’s Office.

Seattle and five other large cities in the West have filed suit against Monsanto to help pay for PCB cleanup costs. They are awaiting a court panel review to determine if the cases can be consolidated.

Meanwhile, state attorneys general are concerned about how the federal revisions to TSCA might impact the power of states to regulate chemicals.

A Monsanto spokesperson told The New York Times the company did not request the change. Maybe it just appeared via a kind of spontaneous legislative generation.

Tailored language that fits the legal needs of the original manufacturer of PCBs is the latest development. Expect more coincidences and pre-empts. There is much more to this story.