October 06, 2015

Udall, Vitter, Inhofe, Bonnie Lautenberg Urge Passage of Historic Bipartisan Chemical Safety Reform Legislation

WASHINGTON - In a press conference today, U.S. Sens. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), David Vitter (R-La.), and Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman James Inhofe (R-Okla.), along with Bonnie Lautenberg, widow of the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), and supporters of chemical safety reform, urged the Senate to act to pass a historic bill to reform the broken Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 (TSCA).

Written by Udall and Vitter and based on a bill Vitter wrote with Lautenberg, the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act would overhaul the 39-year-old law to better protect the public while still protecting American business and innovation. It now has broad bipartisan support, with 60 Senate cosponsors representing 38 states.

"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 Ohio or Massachusetts have the same protections as those in all 50 states," Udall said. "With about 1,000 new chemicals coming on the market each year, 39 years is too long to go without protections for children and families. As we prepare to begin debate on the Senate floor, I encourage all lawmakers to support this bill to ensure families, young children, pregnant women and chemical workers are safe from dangerous substances."

"I know that the late Senator Frank Lautenberg would be beyond delighted to see his legacy reach the Floor of the U.S. Senate, especially with such overwhelming bipartisan support from 60 cosponsors representing 38 states. Senator Tom Udall and I have worked tirelessly to preserve Frank's legacy. After countless meetings and negotiations with stakeholders, affected communities, and experts from all sides of the political spectrum, we have created a solid, comprehensive, and common-sense bill," said Vitter. "As we begin consideration of the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, I urge my colleagues to join us in achieving major bipartisan reform that protects public health and the environment while also ensuring American industry has the ability to continue to lead and innovate."

"When members from the furthest ends of the political spectrum come together on legislation and garner the backing of a large majority of the Senate, you know it's the right thing to do. That is what we've accomplished with the Lautenberg Act, and now is the time to pass this historic piece of environmental legislation," Inhofe said. "The Lautenberg Act will update a 39-year-old broken law, ensure Americans are safeguarded from chemicals found in everyday household products, and give job-creators the regulatory certainty they need to continue to thrive. Oklahomans' health and environment will be better protected, and businesses will be given certainty with one workable rulebook for handling chemicals in commerce. I encourage my colleagues in the Senate to join this important effort and vote to bring TSCA reform across the finish line."

TSCA is the last of the major environmental laws of the 1970s to be updated. Intended to allow the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to test and regulate chemicals sold in products and manufacturing, it has widely been considered a failure only having regulated a handful of the 60,000 chemicals it originally grandfathered into commerce. EPA's ability to administer TSCA was further weakened in 1991, when a court struck down EPA's proposed ban of asbestos, a known carcinogen.

Lautenberg dedicated years to crafting a bill that would finally fix TSCA. In 2012, shortly before he passed away, Lautenberg and Vitter announced the first ever bipartisan TSCA reform legislation. After Lautenberg's death, Udall took up his efforts and worked with Vitter and many others to strengthen the bill and work toward fulfilling the late Senator's legacy. Their legislation would require EPA to consider only the health and safety impacts of a chemical when assessing for safety. It ensures special protections for those most vulnerable from chemicals - defined in the bill as pregnant women, infants, the elderly and chemical workers. It also sets a new user fee so chemical companies will bear a larger share of the cost of evaluating and regulating chemicals, and provides uniformity in the law to better protect all American families while providing the regulatory certainty necessary to foster U.S. innovation and interstate commerce.