December 18, 2015

VIDEO: In Speech, Udall Hails Senate Passage of Historic Chemical Safety Law

VIDEO: https://youtu.be/fhGEa6pXD0g

WASHINGTON - Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall delivered a speech on the U.S. Senate floor to celebrate the Senate's historic passage of the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, a landmark chemical safety reform bill to overhaul the nation's broken Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 (TSCA). Udall and Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) authored the bill, which passed the Senate last night by a unanimous voice vote and now has 61 bipartisan cosponsors.

The 39-year-old TSCA is the last of the major environmental laws passed in the 1960s and '70s that has not yet been modernized. The bill must now be reconciled with the U.S. House of Representatives-passed legislation on the same issue.

In his speech, Udall thanked some of the many partners and chemical safety reform advocates who have helped to make the bill stronger and more bipartisan, including Vitter, Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman James Inhofe (R-Okla.), and Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.). He also recognized Bonnie Lautenberg for her unwavering efforts in the chemical safety reform fight. The bill is named after her husband, the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), who worked for many years to reform the broken and outdated TSCA.

"We're on the verge of historic reform decades in the making and decades overdue. TSCA is the last of the environmental laws from the 1960s and 70s left to be updated," Udall said. "Some days you might not think we could pass a major environmental law in this Congress. But we've proven that wrong, and we have a very strong bill. Our bill finally gives the EPA the authority it needs. It sets clear guidelines for the EPA to evaluate new and existing chemicals and to protect the American people. That is why support for this bill was so strong and continued to build from environmental, conservation, good government, industry, and health and labor groups.

"We'll be working to reconcile the bill with the House legislation. This is historic reform. The old TSCA will be obsolete. We'll have a cop on the beat. We'll finally be able to protect our kids from toxic chemicals."

The bill overhauls TSCA by requiring - for the first time - that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) review new and existing chemicals and regulate them based on the impact they would have on those individuals most at risk: infants, pregnant women, the elderly and chemical industry workers. The bill ensures chemical companies can no longer hide information on their products from public view, and it requires chemical companies to contribute significantly to the cost of regulation and ensure the EPA has the funds to do its job.

Since TSCA was enacted, the EPA has been able to restrict just five chemicals, and it has prevented only four chemicals from going to market - out of the more than 23,000 new chemicals manufactured since 1976.

Below are Udall's remarks as prepared for delivery:

Last night was a historic moment in the U.S. Senate.

After years - years - of negotiations and collaboration, after working with stakeholders across the country, we made tremendous progress toward historic, bipartisan environmental reform.

The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act passed the Senate on a unanimous voice vote with 60 bipartisan cosponsors, with overwhelming support.

This is a great milestone. First, I want to thank Senator Vitter. Senator Vitter and I introduced this legislation for one reason, one basic reason - to fix our nation's broken chemical safety law.

There were times when the bill was stalled from even getting introduced. And Senators like Tom Carper stepped in and helped get us back on track. Thank you, Senator Carper. His early leadership as an original cosponsor of this bill got us off on the much needed right-foot.

This has been a long road to get here today. I want to thank Chairman Inhofe for his calm, steady leadership. And Senators Merkley, Booker, Whitehouse, Markey, and Coons, and Senator Durbin, and many many others. All helped move this forward. All helped make this a better bill.

I also want to thank Bonnie Lautenberg. Senator Lautenberg fought hard for TSCA reform. I was proud to take up that fight, and I am grateful to Bonnie, who has helped us every step of the way.

I'd also like to recognize the great advocates for reform. The Bipartisan Policy Center. The Environmental Defense Fund. The National Wildlife Federation. March of Dimes. North America's Building Trades Unions. The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. Moms Clean Air Force. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. The Humane Society. And so many others - representing over 30 million Americans. All support the Lautenberg Act. They pushed Congress to act, and they kept pushing until we did act. Many thousands of Americans have worked for chemical safety reform over the last four decades. Thank you for not giving up.

They understand that we need a national solution to our broken chemical safety law. The Toxic Substances Control Act was enacted in 1976, nearly 40 years ago. It was supposed to protect American families. It doesn't. Over four decades, the EPA has been able to restrict just five chemicals, and it has prevented only four chemicals from going to market out of tens of thousands.

Every day, Americans go to the grocery store, or the hardware store. They believe that the chemicals in the products they buy have been tested and are safe. But that's not true because TSCA is so broken.

Because this is about our health and safety. This is about our children and grandchildren. This is about people like Dominique Browning, who works with Moms Clean Air Force, who worries about her kids and the toys and products they use every day. She herself survived kidney cancer. When she asked her doctor what caused her kidney cancer, he said, "It's one of those environmental ones. Who knows? We're full of chemicals."

This is about people like Lisa Huguenin. Lisa is a Ph.D. Scientist who has done work on chemical exposure at Princeton and Rutgers and at the state and federal level. But she is a mother first. Her thirteen year-old son, Harrison, was born with autism and auto-immune deficiencies. Five years ago, Lisa testified before Senator Lautenberg's Subcommittee on the need for reform. She is eager to see TSCA reform be signed into law. That's why we're here - to fix this broken system. Now we're close to the finish line for the first time in almost 40 years.

Mr. President, in 2009, the Obama Administration laid out six essential principles for TSCA reform. The bill we passed last night meets all six of those principles.

Principle No. 1: Chemicals Should be Reviewed Against Safety Standards that are Based on Sound Science and Reflect Risk-based Criteria Protective of Human Health and the Environment.

Our bill requires EPA to assess chemicals based only on health and safety information - not on cost.

Principle No. 2: Manufacturers Should Provide EPA with the Necessary Information to Conclude That New and Existing Chemicals are Safe and Do Not Endanger Public Health or the Environment.

Our bill gives EPA new authorities to develop testing data, and requires a finding of safety before new chemicals (as many as 1,500 a year) enter the market.

Principle No. 3: Risk Management Decisions Should Take into Account Sensitive Subpopulations, Cost, Availability of Substitutes and Other Relevant Considerations.

Our bill explicitly requires the protection of vulnerable populations and lists out examples, such as infants, the elderly, pregnant women, workers and others.

Principle No. 4: Manufacturers and EPA Should Assess and Act on Priority Chemicals, Both Existing and New, in a Timely Manner.

Our bill requires the EPA to systematically review all of the chemicals in commerce, prioritizing the chemicals of most concern first, and it sets aggressive, judicially enforceable deadlines for EPA decisions.

Principle No. 5: Green Chemistry Should Be Encouraged and Provisions Assuring Transparency and Public Access to Information Should Be Strengthened.

Our bill includes a section on sustainable chemistry, and also makes more information about chemicals available by limiting industry's ability to claim information as confidential, and giving states and health professionals access to confidential information to protect the public.

Principle No. 6: EPA Should Be Given a Sustained Source of Funding for Implementation

Our bill gives EPA sustained sources of funding and ensures that the EPA's priorities are not overwhelmed by private interests to ensure that the program we implement is a risk-based system.

Additionally, the bill allows EPA to develop cost-effective final regulations, but without the high procedural hurdles in the underlying statute.

It strikes an appropriate balance between federal and state action. It gives states the right to co-enforce federal standards. And it leaves state civil actions alone and gives no special advantage to either side in litigation.

Mr. President, we're on the verge of historic reform decades in the making and decades overdue. TSCA is the last of the environmental laws from the 1960s and 70s left to be updated. Some days you might not think we could pass a major environmental law in this Congress. But we've proven that wrong, and we have a very strong bill.

Our bill finally gives the EPA the authority it needs. It sets clear guidelines for the EPA to evaluate new and existing chemicals and to protect the American people. That is why support for this bill was so strong and continued to build from environmental, conservation, good government, industry, and health and labor groups.

We'll be working to reconcile the bill with the House legislation. This is historic reform. The old TSCA will be obsolete. We'll have a cop on the beat. We'll finally be able to protect our kids from toxic chemicals.

I again want to thank Senator Vitter. I am proud to work with him on this bill. We disagreed many times. The negotiations were sometimes difficult. But we stayed at the table. We listened to all sides, and we looked for solutions instead of roadblocks.

And I also want to again thank the many colleagues who worked with us for the best possible bill. Thank you.

It wouldn't be right to finish this afternoon without mentioning the staff. We had a number of staff members here:

Dimitri Karakitsos (worked for Senator Vitter and now for Chairman Inhofe)
Ryan Jackson (Chairman Inhofe's Staff Director)
Zak Baig (Vitter)
Colin Peppard (Carper)
Adrian Deveny (Merkley)
Emily Enderle (Whitehouse)
Adam Zipkin (Booker)
Michal Freedhoff (Markey)
Jasmine Hunt (Durbin)
Lisa Hummon-Jones (Coons)

And the staff at Senate Legislative Counsel, who worked to turn around text so quickly at crucial points:

Michelle Johnson-Weider
Deanna Edwards

And so many others. I want to conclude by thanking again our bipartisan partners.

We look forward to working with our House colleagues to reconcile these bills, and to getting this passed early next year.