WASHINGTON – Today, a bipartisan coalition of senators celebrated the Senate's historic passage of the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, a chemical safety reform bill to overhaul the nation's broken Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 (TSCA). The bill 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.
Passage of the bill was thanks to hard work from many senators. At a news conference this morning, U.S. Sens. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and David Vitter (R-La.) thanked several partners who have worked hard to make the bill stronger and more bipartisan: 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.).
Markey said: “For too long, TSCA has been a statute that simply does not work and EPA’s authority to regulate dangerous chemicals has been broken. The legislation to reform and update TSCA that unanimously passed the Senate represents the kind of bipartisan commitment, married with compromise, that yields important, long-lasting policy. Enormous credit is owed to the tremendous efforts made by Senators Udall, Vitter, and Inhofe and their staffs. I thank Senator Durbin for his partnership to strengthen this legislation and Senators Merkley, Whitehouse and Booker who worked to improve this bill. I stand ready to roll up my sleeves to work with the House to turn this bill into law and protect the health and safety of the American people.”
Udall said: "After years of negotiations, collaboration and working with stakeholders across the country, we have made tremendous progress toward historic, bipartisan environmental reform. I want to thank Senator Vitter and our partners in the Senate who rolled up their sleeves and worked to make this day possible: Chairman Inhofe and Senator Carper; Senators Booker, Merkley and Whitehouse; and Senators Durbin and Markey; and Senator Coons. Everyone put partisanship aside in order to address the substance and make this bill better. As many as 1,500 new chemicals come on the market each year, but there is no cop on the beat making sure they're safe for consumers or our environment. This bill will require the EPA to test all of them, make sure they’re safe and put the focus where it ought to be — on how these chemicals affect the most vulnerable in New Mexico and across the country. TSCA has been broken from the beginning. Thirty-nine years is too long to go without strong protections for Americans' health and safety. I look forward to working with members of the House on a final product that the president will sign so we can finally protect our children from dangerous chemicals."
Vitter said: “Senator Tom Udall and I, along with our Democrat and Republican colleagues and countless stakeholders, have spent years at the negotiating table to arrive at the best possible compromise to reform our nation’s outdated chemical legislation and allow our industries to remain innovative leaders. Our work is not yet done, however. I’m eager to continue the legislative process with our House colleagues early next year so that we can sign chemical safety reform into law.”
Inhofe said: “The Senate passage of the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act is a historic, bipartisan victory that will protect both families and the environment as well as providing a workable regulatory framework for American businesses. This legislation would not have been possible without Bonnie Lautenberg and her unwavering commitment to her late husband’s legacy. With the Senate unanimously agreeing to send this bill to the House, I look forward to working with my friends across the capitol to get meaningful TSCA reform to the President’s desk and signed into law.”
Carper said: “Bipartisanship is hard to come by in the Senate these days, especially on environmental issues, this is a historic step toward reforming our toxics laws to better serve both the public and businesses in Delaware and around the country. After too many years of failure, both sides of the aisle have worked together to compromise on policy, without ever compromising their principles. We all owe sincere thanks to Senator Udall for his leadership, determination, and tireless efforts alongside Senator Vitter and Senator Inhofe to produce this bipartisan piece of legislation. Together we’ve made it to first and goal, and I look forward to reconciling this bill with the House version and getting it across the finish line.”
Booker said: “Frank Lautenberg would be proud of the Senate’s unanimous vote to approve the bill that bears his name, which brings us a step closer to the end of a long journey he started to strengthen the laws that help keep Americans safe from toxic chemicals. These changes are already decades overdue. The Senate and House need to now work together to quickly get this bill to the President’s desk to be signed into law.”
Coons said: “Since being elected to the Senate in 2010, I have heard from countless Delawareans — researchers, nurses, parents, business owners — about how ineffective the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act is today, and how we can and must do better. Delaware is home to some of America’s leading chemical manufacturers, so my constituents and I see firsthand the detrimental impact of this outdated law on both communities and businesses. The reforms in this bill give critical authority to the Environmental Protection Agency to police dangerous chemicals, while providing regulatory certainty for the businesses whose innovations we depend on every day. I’m particularly pleased that the bill includes a section that reflects my Sustainable Chemistry R&D Act, which will encourage the development and commercialization of new chemicals, materials, and processes that are better for the environment.”
Durbin said: “I was drawn to this issue 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 found, in talking with my colleagues, that there was very little we could do about it. For generations, a lot of Americans have been exposed to unsafe chemicals without knowing it and with no one to protect them. With the passage of this bill, we will change that.”
Merkley said: “The passage of this bill is an enormous milestone on the path toward a safer, healthier future for our families. It’s totally unacceptable that in the most powerful country on earth, our federal government has been powerless to protect us from incredibly damaging toxic chemicals in everyday products. Now, we’re taking action to change that. I was pleased to work with a bipartisan coalition to pass this bill in the Senate, and I look forward to working with our colleagues in the House to get a bill signed into law.”
Whitehouse said: “Our main toxic chemicals law hasn’t done nearly enough to protect Americans’ health and our environment. It’s stuck states like Rhode Island with the difficult job of protecting the public from complicated chemicals and saddled businesses with a confusing patchwork of rules and regulations. This bill will provide consumers with confidence that the products they use are safe. It will also give more certainty to businesses. I’m proud of the work we’ve done to craft this legislation and glad to see it advance.”
The bill is named after the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), who worked for many years to reform the broken and outdated TSCA. It overhauls the law 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.
In the 39 years 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.