October 02, 2015

Udall, Markey, Durbin Announce Agreement on Chemical Safety Reform Bill

Markey, Durbin to cosponsor after Senate vote, bringing total support to 60 senators

WASHINGTON - Today, as the full Senate prepares to begin debate on a historic bill to overhaul the broken Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976, U.S. Sens. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) announced they have agreed on new improvements to the bill. With the changes, Markey and Durbin have agreed to support the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, which Udall wrote with U.S. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.). Their cosponsorship brings the total number of cosponsors for the bipartisan bill to 60 senators representing 38 states. Debate is expected to begin as soon as next week.

Named for the late New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg, a champion for public health and the environment, the Lautenberg bill would be the first significant reform of TSCA since it was passed 39 years ago. It would - for the first time - give the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the authority to test and regulate chemicals according to their impact on the most vulnerable among us: children, pregnant women, the elderly and chemical workers. Markey and Durbin worked with Udall and Vitter on changes to the bill that will be added in a substitute amendment when the bill is brought up on the floor. The changes include provisions to increase funding for EPA resources through industry fees, ensure fast industry compliance with EPA regulations, and simplify the waiver process from preemption for states. The agreement also expedites action on work that EPA pursues on chemicals that are known dangers, such as asbestos.

"I'm extremely pleased to announce that Senators Markey and Durbin will support our efforts to reform the nation's broken chemical safety laws," Udall said. "This bill is the product of years of work, collaboration and positive input from lawmakers across the country who understand that we need a national solution to our broken chemical safety law - one that will ensure Americans in New Mexico or Illinois or Massachusetts have the same protections as those in all 50 states. The law has been broken for far too long, and as we prepare to begin debate on the Senate floor, I encourage all lawmakers to act to protect families, young children, and pregnant women from dangerous chemicals and support this bill."

"I am pleased by the positive and meaningful progress on improvements to TSCA reauthorization legislation, and I am proud we have secured changes to the bill that will ensure chemical companies comply with mandatory deadlines for safety regulations, expedite regulatory action on the most dangerous chemicals, allow states more flexibility to implement new chemical regulations and give EPA the funds it needs to do the job," said Senator Markey, Ranking Member of the Superfund, Waste Management and Regulatory Oversight subcommittee. "Our federal chemical law is outdated and ineffective, and this legislation is a much-needed update that will help protect families and communities from dangerous chemicals. I thank Senator Durbin for his partnership, and Senators Udall, Vitter and Inhofe for their leadership and collegial efforts to work with us to strengthen the legislation."

"Following a Chicago Tribune series in 2012 that revealed that flame retardant chemicals added to furniture and other household goods are useless and toxic for American families, I began calling for reform of the antiquated law regulating toxic chemicals," said Durbin. "Today's agreement reflects a bipartisan effort to give the EPA additional resources and authority to more effectively regulate chemicals and ensure timely compliance with new laws. Further delay in reforming this broken system risks exposing more families to toxic substances and leaves the EPA with little recourse against the aggressive chemical companies that have been exploiting the lack of oversight."

Lautenberg dedicated years to crafting a bill that would finally fix TSCA. In 2012, shortly before he passed away, Lautenberg and Vitter announced a bipartisan agreement. After Lautenberg's death, Udall took up Lautenberg's efforts and strengthened the bill. Their legislation would require EPA to consider only the health and safety impacts of a chemical - never the cost or burden to manufacturers - when assessing chemicals for safety. It ensures consideration of those most vulnerable from chemicals - defined in the bill as pregnant women, infants, the elderly and chemical workers. It sets a new fee so chemical companies will bear a larger share of the cost of evaluating and regulating chemicals. And it provides certainty in the law about when states may step in if EPA does not act to regulate or ban dangerous chemicals.

Details of the agreement with Markey and Durbin:
-Increases the $18 million per year funding cap for industry TSCA Fees to $25 million per year, and creates a process to ensure sufficient resources to defray 25 percent of EPA's chemical safety program costs
-Sets a mandatory compliance deadline of four years for industry compliance with EPA regulations (and allows an extension of up to 18 months if EPA determines that the deadline is technologically or economically infeasible)
-Clarifies and simplifies the process for state waivers from preemption and state co-enforcement of federal chemical safety regulations
-Expedites regulatory action on EPA's TSCA Work Plan chemicals (the 90 chemicals EPA has identified as having the highest potential for exposure and hazard) from the seven years the bill currently allows to generally five years for these chemicals.
-Adds assurances for mandatory protections for vulnerable populations, such as pregnant women, children and workers
-Includes other improvements to the bill's provisions to ensure:
exposure to PBTs is reduced as much as practicable;
parity for judicial review of EPA actions;
EPA has to disclose the information it used to make prioritization decisions; and
improvements to provisions allowing access to CBI for medical professionals and first responders.