Hearings - Statement
Statement of Frank R. Lautenberg
Hearing: Full and Subcommittee on Superfund, Toxics and Environmental Health joint hearing entitled, "Legislative Hearing on the Safe Chemicals Act."
Thursday, November 17, 2011

Lautenberg Safe Chemicals Act EPW Hearing Statement

(Remarks as prepared for delivery)

“During the past two years, this committee and subcommittee have held five hearings that identified serious problems with the Toxic Substances Control Act, known as TSCA. Today, we will examine solutions to those problems.

“In our previous hearings, we uncovered dangerous and costly deficiencies in TSCA. This committee heard from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) officials, who told us their scientists found 212 industrial chemicals – including six carcinogens – coursing through Americans’ bodies.

“Twice we heard from Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson, who told us under current law her agency lacks the tools it needs to regulate high-risk chemicals. And we heard from mothers who shared their anxiety about having no systems for determining which everyday chemicals might harm them or their children. TSCA is so severely flawed that the non-partisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) testified that it is a ‘high risk area of the law.’

“Our hearings revealed that the status quo does not work for the chemical industry, either. In a hearing last February, executives from Dow and DuPont, two major chemical companies, testified in support of reform, in part because of the difficulties their companies face operating under different rules in different states.

“We heard similar messages earlier this year from the chemical maker, BASF, and S.C. Johnson, the global consumer product company. And we heard from colleagues on both sides of the aisle who agreed TSCA must be revised to work better for businesses and the health of our citizens.

“I first introduced legislation to address TSCA’s shortcomings in 2005. Since then, my legislation has evolved to reflect scientific advances and the feedback from a variety of sources, including the chemical industry.

“At a hearing nearly two years ago, I told this committee the bill should be considered an invitation for all to play a part. Many members on our side offered ideas that are included in the newest version of my bill, and I am pleased most of this committee’s Democrats are now cosponsors.

“We also heard from Senator Vitter, who said TSCA reform legislation must be based on sound science, and called for more input from the National Academy of Sciences onchemical risk assessments. So this year’s version of the Safe Chemicals Act mandates that EPA use the best available science, as defined by the ongoing work of the National Academies.

“Last year, Senators Inhofe and Barrasso raised concerns about inadvertently depriving our economy of chemicals that are essential to daily life. As a result, we have included provisions to ensure the continued availability of chemicals for critical or essential uses.

“Concerns were also raised about our proposal for prioritizing certain chemicals for safety review, so we completely overhauled that section of the bill.

“Earlier this year, Senator Inhofe and I met about trying to make this bill bipartisan, and he suggested a process for getting more ideas from industry and others on the table. Throughout the summer, our staffs held 10 meetings with representatives from industry, labor, and environmental groups on different sections of the Safe Chemicals Act.

“Those meetings increased understanding of the bill’s strengths, as well as areas that could be improved. Today’s hearing is an opportunity for the witnesses and members of this committee to take the next step toward a bipartisan bill.

“If you have concerns with something in the Safe Chemicals Act, I hope you will either offer a suggestion for improving it, or commit to working through the details with us in the next few weeks.

“The bottom line is this: this legislation establishes a strong, but practical system for guaranteeing the safety of chemicals, many of which end up in our bodies and the bodies of our children. And we remain open to other ways of achieving our shared goal of a system that improves safety and encourages continued innovation and growth in the chemical industry. But we must act on this issue soon.

“I plan to call for a vote in this committee in the near future. I hope we will be able to address any concerns raised today so we can approve a bipartisan bill that encourages the use of chemicals that help, and protects our children from the chemicals that harm.”

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