Ranking Member Vitter Opening Statement for TSCA Hearing
July 31, 2013
Ranking Member Vitter Hearing Summary Statement
Hearing on the "Strengthening Public Health Protections by Addressing Toxic Chemical Threats"
July 31, 2013
Thank you, Chairman Boxer, for convening this important hearing today on the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). In the last few years, this Committee has extensively discussed the need for a substantive reform of TSCA, which is 37 years old, and by now, antiquated at best.
It is unfortunate that today is our first TSCA discussion in a very long time without the voice that has been the strongest advocate for meaningful reform of this law, Senator Frank Lautenberg. I again would like to express my sympathies to the Lautenberg family as well as the citizens of New Jersey who lost a true champion for many important causes.
I would like to thank our witnesses in advance, and it is my hope that this hearing will be very constructive and continue in the bipartisan spirit that Frank and I began on this critically important issue.
While I understand the purpose of this hearing is to discuss a number of previous reform efforts, I am very thankful to be able to say that I worked hand in hand with Senator Lautenberg on this - his legacy issue - and we found the first ever bipartisan compromise to help overhaul and significantly strengthen federal chemical regulations that would benefit every citizen in every state. The bill we co-authored, the Chemical Safety Improvement Act (CSIA), is a carefully crafted compromise that provides real opportunity to significantly overhaul a major environmental law for the first time in decades.
Unfortunately, some people and organizations have used this bipartisan breakthrough as an opportunity to play politics, not as a chance to move forward and finally reform this 37-year-old law which we all agree is broken.
I fully recognize that issues have been raised, some legitimate and some not, with the Lautenberg-Vitter bill. Such should be expected from efforts as complex as reforming a major environmental law. However, the simple fact is this: much of what has been put in the public forum is inaccurate and has intentionally distorted our legislative intent.
I have been and will continue to be crystal clear. In no way, shape, or form did Frank or I intend this legislation to eliminate private rights of action under state tort law, and in no way did we intend to remove the authority of any state to protect their water, air, or citizens. As a matter of fact, there is clear language in the bill explicitly protecting the rights of states to continue using state and federal authorities to implement reporting and information collection requirements, as well as regulate water quality, air quality, and waste treatment and disposal. I believe that given how vocal we have been with our intent to address these issues, it is past time for restating the same old concerns and we should move on to developing constructive solutions.
I am hopeful to further gauge any honest and outstanding concerns we hear today, and will direct my staff to continue to be available to ensure clarification of this historic bipartisan agreement and Senator Lautenberg's intent. We should all remember that it was less than a year ago that reform was beyond anyone's vision save the senator from New Jersey.
The good news today is that the bipartisan support for the Lautenberg-Vitter bill continues to grow. The legislation is supported by the editorial boards of the New York Times as well as the Washington Post. Both previous heads of EPA's chemical regulatory office under Presidents' Bush and Obama support the bill, one of whom we are fortunate to have testifying before the Committee today. So far four unions, which include the nearly 3 million workers who encompass North America's Building Trades Unions within the AFL-CIO have endorsed the bill. People in the public health and environmental community also endorse it, including the Environmental Defense Fund and the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, the nation's largest medical society dedicated to promoting the health of workers through preventive medicine, clinical care, research, and education.
It is great to hear Senator Boxer's interest in working towards TSCA reform and today I am thrilled to announce that Senator Udall and I have been meeting with interested parties - including many folks testifying at this hearing today and in other Senate offices - on a path forward that clarifies and addresses most of the problems we will hear about today with the original Lautenberg-Vitter language.
Both Tom and I and our staffs have been speaking to everyone who has chosen to be serious on this issue, and we are making real progress. I am excited for today's hearing and plan to use what we hear to strengthen the first real shot at updating this broken law so we can get this done for Frank Lautenberg, his children and grandchildren he spoke of so often, and really every citizen of the United States. It is my sincere hope that Senator Udall and I can move forward working with the Chair and other members of the Committee.
With that I thank you again Senator Boxer for this hearing and look forward to hearing from our witnesses.