Udall: Celebrate Earth Day By Committing To Pass Meaningful Chemical Safety Reform

U.S. SENATE News:

VIDEO: https://youtu.be/lEvloqK0aLI            

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, on the 45th anniversary of Earth Day, U.S. Sen. Tom Udall urged Congress to make it a priority to pass meaningful chemical safety reform into law this year.

Momentum is continuing to build for Udall’s bipartisan bill to overhaul the nation’s broken chemical safety law, the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act. Udall’s legislation has 21 cosponsors from across the political spectrum, and a parallel bipartisan effort is underway in the U.S. House of Representatives.  

The bill, which Udall wrote with U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., would finally allow the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate dangerous chemicals sold in consumer products and used in manufacturing, including asbestos, BPA, styrene, and tens of thousands of others. 

“Earth Day helped launch a movement that built support for vigorous laws that have worked to keep our air and water safe and clean for future generations. But while Congress attempted to regulate chemicals as part of that same movement, its efforts were flawed and eventually, our national chemical safety laws were gutted by the courts. EPA is powerless to keep our kids safe from chemicals — it can’t even ban asbestos. As a result, New Mexicans and the vast majority of Americans have no protection from dangerous chemicals,” Udall said. 

“I can’t think of a better way for Congress to reaffirm the spirit behind Earth Day than to commit to passing meaningful chemical safety reform this year,” Udall continued. “Americans want a cop on the beat when it comes to ensuring our kids and our environment are safe from dangerous chemicals. We have momentum now — we have bipartisan support now — let’s commit to getting it done this year.”

Udall’s bill is an updated and improved version of the bipartisan legislation first introduced in 2013 by Vitter and the late U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J. The Udall-Vitter bill, the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, is named for Lautenberg, a longtime public health champion, and it has the support of numerous advocates for public health and the environment, as well as Lautenberg’s widow, Bonnie.

Udall delivered the following remarks on the Senate floor:

Mr. President, we come into contact with thousands of chemicals every day. As I am speaking now, millions of our fellow citizens are buying groceries…or going to the hardware store…or getting clothes or toys for their children. They assume the government has studied the chemicals in these products and determined they are safe. But that is not the case. The Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976—or TSCA—is supposed to protect American families. And it doesn’t. 

There are over 84,000 known chemicals in manufactured and commercial products, and hundreds of new ones coming on the market every year. And how many have been regulated by EPA? Less than half a dozen. These are troubling numbers. Almost 40 years of TSCA, 84,000 chemicals and counting, and less than a dozen actually regulated. EPA can’t even regulate asbestos—a known carcinogen—since losing a court battle in 1991. So for decades, the risks are there, the dangers are there, but there is no cop on the beat. TSCA has failed. 

Some states are trying to fill the gaps by regulating a few chemicals. But my home state of New Mexico and the vast majority of others have no ability to test chemicals. They don’t have a department to write regulations. Without a working federal law, they have no protection. Even California, which probably has the greatest capacity of all states to test and regulate, has only proposed rules for three chemicals. In seven years since California passed a law to regulate chemicals – it has only begun the process on three chemicals. 

That is why I—and others—have worked so hard to find compromise on this issue. That is why I introduced the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act. 

Mr. President, I’ve come to the floor today, on Earth Day, to urge you and all of our colleagues here to make it a priority to reform our broken chemical safety law. We have a moral obligation to protect our kids from dangerous chemicals.

I have been privileged to work with Senator Vitter on this bill. I thank him and our colleagues who have worked with us. This is a true bipartisan effort. We don’t always agree on some of the issues. But we have one goal here. One basic goal. Reform is overdue—40 years overdue.

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