WASHINGTON ― As the Senate prepares to begin debate on chemical safety reform, U.S. Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M) led a bipartisan coalition of senators calling on Congress to finally protect families from dangerous chemicals by passing the bipartisan Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, which Udall wrote with Sen. David Vitter (R-La.).
The bill is named for the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), who worked for many years to reform the broken and outdated Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 (TSCA).
It would overhaul 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 the most vulnerable, defined in the law as infants, pregnant women, the elderly and chemical industry workers.
The bill would ensure chemical companies can no longer hide information on their products from public view. And it would require chemical companies to contribute significantly to the cost of regulation and ensure the EPA has the funds to do its job.
Udall and Vitter’s comprehensive reform proposal currently has the support of 60 senators from 38 states and is ready for a vote on the Senate floor immediately.
Vitter and Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman James Inhofe (R-Okla.) joined Udall in a conversation on the Senate floor to push for a vote on the bill. The full conversation — called a colloquy — can be found here.
Udall’s main remarks begin at about 25:55.
“The American people want — and deserve — a government that does its job to keep families safe,” Udall said. “Ever since the EPA lost a lawsuit in 1991, it hasn’t even been able to regulate asbestos — a known carcinogen. So — for decades — the risks are there, the dangers are there. But there is no cop on the beat taking a look at chemical safety.”
In the almost 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.
It is the last of the major environmental laws passed in the 1960s and 70s yet to be modernized.
“The current system has failed,” Udall continued. “It fails to provide confidence in our consumer products. It fails to ensure our families and communities are safe. Reform is overdue — 40 years overdue.
“We have a historic opportunity. Let’s finish the job — so the EPA can do its job. We can provide American families with the safety they expect and deserve. Let’s work together. Let’s make that happen. Let’s not wait another 40 years.”
Earlier yesterday, Udall led a rally on the Capitol grounds urging passage of TSCA reform.
He was joined byLautenberg’s widow Bonnie Lautenberg, Whitehouse, Inhofe and Vitter, Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and many advocates for chemical safety reform — including representatives from environmental groups, industry stakeholders, health professionals, parent groups and other affected communities.