Since 2005, Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey has been introducing various forms of legislation in an attempt to reform the decades old Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA.) Just last month, he introduced the latest version of his Safe Chemicals Act legislation that would have given the Environmental Protection Agency the authority to identify and restrict the "worst of the worst" chemicals and improve the scientific methods for testing and evaluating chemicals. Until recently though, these bills have had an uphill battle in Congress. But yesterday, Lautenberg introduced new chemical reform legislation that may just stand a chance at passing.
Lautenberg, together with his new co-sponsor David Vitter, a Republican from Louisiana, announced their bipartisan agreement to modernize the TSCA with the Lautenberg-Vitter “Chemical Safety Improvement Act of 2013.” The legislation is co-sponsored by U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Charles Schumer (D-NY), James Inhofe (R-OK), Tom Udall (D-NM), Susan Collins (R-ME), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Joe Manchin (D-WV), John Boozman (R-AR), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), and John Hoeven (R-ND).
“This bipartisan agreement is an historic step toward meaningful reform that protects American families and consumers. Every parent wants to know that the chemicals used in everyday products have been proven safe, but our current chemical laws fail to give parents that peace of mind,” said Senator Lautenberg. “Our bipartisan bill would fix the flaws with current law and ensure that chemicals are screened for safety.”
Unlike the previous legislation that Lautenberg has passed, the Chemical Safety Improvement Act seems to have garnered Republican favor by improving the communication between chemical manufacturers and government agencies.
“Chemical manufacturing is a big part of Louisiana’s economy and across the country, and the Chemical Safety Improvement Act establishes a program that should provide confidence to the public and consumers, by giving the EPA the tools it needs to make critical determinations while providing a more transparent process. The benefit of such a system is that industry should also have more confidence that the federal system works to facilitate innovation and grow our economy.” said Senator Vitter, Ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee.
In contrast to the TSCA, the Chemical Safety Improvement Act of 2013 would require safety evaluations for all active chemicals and prioritize chemicals for safety reviews. It also requires the EPA to evaluate the risks posed to particularly vulnerable populations, such as children and pregnant women, when evaluating the safety of a chemical. And for chemicals that do pass the review, it would help chemical manufacturers get new chemistry on the market and protects trade secrets and intellectual property from disclosure.
Will this new chemical safety legislation have better luck in Congress than its predecessors? It's of course too soon to tell, but its bipartisan backing certainly gives it a fighting chance.