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  • Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21St Century Act

    by Senator Tom Udall

    Posted on 2015-12-18

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    Read More about Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21St Century Act

    UDALL. Mr. President, last night was a historic moment in the Senate. After years and 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 and with overwhelming support. This is a great milestone.

    First, I want to thank Senator Vitter. Senator Vitter and I introduced this legislation for one basic reason: to fix our Nation's broken chemical safety law. I remember that over 2 years ago we had a very quiet dinner, and we walked away from that dinner saying: We are going to form a team, and we are going to get this done. It was after Frank Lautenberg had passed away, and Senator Vitter is a man of his word. We stuck to it, and we are making significant historic progress. I thank him for that.

    There were times when the bill was stalled from even getting introduced, and Senators like Tom Carper stepped in and helped us get back on track. I thank Senator Carper for that. His early leadership as an original cosponsor of this bill got us off on the much needed right foot. Other moderates joined in, and we had some momentum building up.

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

    I also thank Bonnie Lautenberg. Senator Lautenberg fought hard for TSCA [[Page S8873]] reform. I was proud to take up that fight, and I am grateful to Bonnie, who has helped us every step of the way. She has been an incredible advocate in terms of interacting with Senators and their staff to push the crucial message forward on TSCA reform, and it was the message her husband Frank Lautenberg would repeat every day when I saw him in committee. He said: Are we doing the right thing for our children and our grandchildren? He really believed TSCA reform would save more lives than anything he had ever done in his life. He had a very rich life and lived to be almost 90 years old.

    I wish to also recognize the great advocates for reform. A lot of this was grassroots people standing up and saying that we haven't done what we need to do for the American people, for our families, and for our children on chemical safety. There are too many to mention all of them, but the Bipartisan Policy Center stood up and helped out; the Environmental Defense Fund--Fred Krupp, their leader, played a crucial role; 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. All of these groups taken together represent over 30 million Americans. They all support the Lautenberg act. They pushed Congress to act, and they kept pushing until we did that.

    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, but 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. That is out of tens of thousands of chemicals.

    Everyday Americans go to the grocery store or the hardware store, and they believe the chemicals in the products they buy have been tested and are safe, but that is not true because TSCA is broken. This is about health and safety. This is about our children and grandchildren. This is about people like Dominique Browning, who works with Moms Clean Air Force and 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.'' That was her doctor talking to her when she got kidney cancer. This is about people like Lisa Huguenin. Lisa is a Ph.D. scientist and has done work on chemical exposure at Princeton and Rutgers and at the State and Federal levels. She is a mother first. Her 13-year-old son Harrison was born with autism and autoimmune deficiencies. Five years ago, Lisa testified before Senator Lautenberg's subcommittee on the need for reform. She is eager to see TSCA reform signed into law.

    That is why we are here--to fix this broken system. Now we are close to the finish line for the first time in almost 40 years.

    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, and I will go through each one individually.

    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 the EPA to assess chemicals based only on the health and safety information, not on the cost. That was a significant change we made, and many of the Senators I talked about earlier helped us to get that done.

    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. The finding on safety needs to be done not like it is done today but before they enter the marketplace.

    Principle No. 3, risk management decisions should take into account sensitive subpopulations, cost, availability of substitutes, and other relevant considerations.

    Our bill specifically requires the protection of vulnerable populations and lists examples of vulnerable populations, 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 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 it gives 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, strikes an appropriate balance between Federal and State action, gives States the right to coenforce Federal standards. This will give a State's attorney general the ability to move when the Federal Government may not be moving, and it leaves State civil actions alone and gives no special advantage to either side in litigation.

    We are 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 1970s left to be updated. Some days you might not think we could pass a major environmental law in Congress, but we have proven that wrong and we have a very strong bill.

    Our bill finally gives the EPA the authority it needs to set clear guidance 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 will be working to reconcile the bill with the House legislation. This is historic reform. The old TSCA will be obsolete. We will have a cop on the beat and will finally be able to protect our kids from toxic chemicals.

    I wish to again thank Senator Vitter. I am proud to work with him on this bill. We may have disagreed many times on other issues, and the negotiations were sometimes difficult, but we stayed at the table, listened to all sides, and looked for solutions instead of roadblocks, and I thank Senator Vitter for that.

    I also want to again thank the many colleagues who worked with us to ensure that we have the best possible bill. At every step of the way, we had Senators from both sides of the aisle step forward, make suggestions, join the bill, cosponsor, and helped to move us forward.

    It wouldn't be right to finish this afternoon without mentioning the staff. The staff in the Senate do an incredible job in terms of getting focused on the issues, learning about them in depth, working with each other, and many times moving roadblocks out of the way.

    We had a number of staff members who worked on this legislation. Dimitri Karakitsos worked for Senator Vitter when Senator Vitter was chairman and he now works for Chairman Inhofe. Dimitri has been amazing in terms of his staff ability and his understanding. We really appreciate all of his help.

    I wish to also thank Chairman Inhofe's staff director, Ryan Jackson; [[Page S8874]] Zak Baig, with Senator Vitter; Colin Peppard, with Senator Carper; Adrian Deveny, with Senator Merkley; Emily Enderle, with Senator Whitehouse; Adam Zipkin, with Senator Cory Booker; Michal Freedhoff, with Senator Markey; Jasmine Hunt, with Senator Durbin; and Lisa Hummon-Jones, with Senator Coons.

    I have mentioned the great work that Jonathan Black, a member of my staff, has done, but we have also had incredible work by my legislative director, Andrew Wallace, and all of my staff at various points. This legislation has been a heavy burden, and my staff worked hard to get this legislation completed. I truly appreciate the hard work they have done, including my chief of staff and everybody in the office.

    We also had the opportunity to consult with and ask for help from the Senate legislative counsel. They worked to turn around text quickly at crucial points, and that makes all the difference in the world--to have text, get it looked at, get the changes made, and get back to the individuals who are involved.

    Michelle Johnson-Weider played a key role, as did Deanna Edwards. I am sure there were others over there who also helped us out. This is not a definitive list. There were also many others.

    I wish to conclude by thanking, again, our bipartisan partners. Senator Vitter and I have been working on this for years. We took it up after Senator Lautenberg passed away. Senator Vitter was on the committee as the ranking member and the chairman--and back and forth-- and then Senator Inhofe took over.

    I remember when we had a meeting with Senator Inhofe, and he took a real interest in this legislation. He has incredible calm, steady judgment in terms of pulling together what needs to happen to get a bill done in this sometimes hyperpartisan atmosphere. As chairman, he was always willing to listen to the people on the committee, off the committee, and pull people together to help them find common ground on this bill.

    With that, we look forward to working with our House colleagues. Many of us served in the House. We served with House Members Fred Upton, Frank Pallone, John Shimkus, and Representative Tonko. These are some of the key people who will be working on this in the House, and we look forward to working with them and their staff and each other to reconcile these bills.

    The House has some very good ideas in its bill. We have been a little more expansive and covered more areas, and I hope they will work with us on that. We look forward to working with them and putting the two bills together and then getting this passed early next year.

    I suggest the absence of a quorum.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.

    The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.

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