03.10.15

Capito Co-Sponsors Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) today issued the following statement regarding the bipartisan Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act introduced by Sens. David Vitter (R-La.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and co-sponsored by Senator Capito:

“The Freedom Industries spill in Charleston last year is a prime example of why we must ensure toxic chemicals are properly regulated. The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act is an important piece of bipartisan legislation that will protect our families while providing a consistent regulatory framework. I am proud to co-sponsor this bill and look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure the health and safety of our communities,” said Senator Capito.

Background:

The current 40-year-old law governing the use of chemicals in everyday products, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), is widely considered to be ineffective.  After years of unsuccessful efforts to rewrite the law, in 2013, the late Senator Frank R. Lautenberg joined Senator Vitter to introduce the first ever bipartisan proposal to update TSCA, which The New York Times editorial board endorsed as "a significant advance over the current law.” Udall joined Vitter in the effort to carry the torch and further strengthen the bill after Lautenberg passed away.

The new Udall-Vitter bill builds on and strengthens the 2013 proposal by ensuring that cost considerations cannot be considered in determining the safety of a chemical, defining “vulnerable populations” and requiring their protection, strengthening deadlines for the EPA to evaluate existing chemicals, adding new structure and requirements for confidential business information claims, and mandating that new chemicals cannot be manufactured until the EPA has approved them.

“Frank believed that fixing America’s chemical law could be his most significant legacy — in a career devoted to protecting public health,” said Bonnie Lautenberg, widow of Frank R. Lautenberg. “The new bipartisan proposal from senators Tom Udall and David Vitter builds important improvements upon the solid foundation Frank laid with Senator Vitter in 2013. I strongly encourage Senators in both parties to step up and help finish the job of ensuring our families are protected from toxic chemicals."

Other original co-sponsors included Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio).

Core provisions of the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act include:

Strengthens the Safety Standard 

  • Mandates that EPA base chemical safety decisions solely on considerations of risk to public health and the environment. The legislation makes clear that costs and benefits may not factor into a chemical safety evaluation.
  • Eliminates TSCA’s “least burdensome” requirement for regulating a chemical, which prevented EPA from banning asbestos.

Mandates safety reviews for new and existing chemicals 

  • Requires that all chemicals in commerce, including those "grandfathered" under TSCA, undergo safety reviews.
  • Requires a safety finding for new chemicals before they can enter the market. 

Strengthens Protections for the Most Vulnerable

  • Places greater emphasis on and requires protection of those who may be more exposed or particularly vulnerable to the effects of exposure to chemicals, and clearly defines them for the first time as including infants, children, pregnant women, workers and the elderly. 

Sets Aggressive and Attainable Deadlines

  • Imposes at least 15 deadlines for EPA action, developed with input from the Agency.

Creates additional requirements and sets reasonable limits on Confidential Business Information claims

  • Requires that confidentiality claims be substantiated up front and imposes a 10-year, renewable time limit on such claims.
  • Requires EPA to review claims that protect the identities of chemicals in commerce.

Preserves Existing Private Rights of Action

  • Clarifies that the existing right of Americans to sue and seek damages when they believe harm has been done is not affected by the bill.
  • Makes clear that nothing in the bill affects the ability of litigants to obtain confidential information in a judicial proceeding. 

Balances State and Federal Regulations

  • Grandfathers in state regulations on chemicals enacted prior to Jan. 1, 2015.
  • States can act to restrict a chemical until and unless EPA takes up that same chemical and addresses the same uses.
  • State actions that do not restrict a chemical or are taken to address a different problem are not affected.
  • Includes a waiver process for states to set different regulations than EPA during the safety assessment and after a final rule.
  • Once EPA acts on a chemical substance, a uniform federal standard is applied across the nation, which creates more regulatory certainty and equally protects citizens across the country.


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