Full Committee Hearing: "Strengthening Public Health Protections by Addressing Toxic Chemicals Threats"
July 31, 2013
(Remarks as prepared for delivery)
Today we will focus on how to protect the American people from harmful chemicals, while allowing companies who act responsibly to sell their products.
Our dear friend, the late Senator Frank Lautenberg and I have worked on these issues for nearly a decade, introducing many bills together on TSCA reform.
In 2005, S. 1391, the "Child, Worker, and Consumer-Safe Chemicals Act of 2005,"
In 2008, S. 3040, the "Kids Safe Chemicals Act of 2008,"
In 2011, S. 847, the "Safe Chemicals Act of 2011," and
In 2013, S. 696, the "Safe Chemicals Act of 2013."
In May, the month after Senator Lautenberg and I introduced our final TSCA reform bill, S. 696, he introduced S. 1009 with Senator Vitter.
We will look at multiple bills to reform TSCA to determine what we support and what we oppose, so that we can move forward to make the American people safer. All the bills agree on one principle: protecting people from harmful chemicals is important. The devil is in the details and that is why I fully support S. 696 where the details support that principle.
It is clear that TSCA is broken. In a key court decision, EPA's plan to phase out asbestos uses was overturned, despite the court's recognition that EPA "concluded that asbestos is a potential carcinogen at all levels of exposure, regardless of the type of asbestos or the size of the fiber."
So now EPA faces terrible problems in addressing dangerous chemicals. I very much want to reform this law so that it works as intended and is better than current law.
I want to be very clear. When respected voices from all over the country tell us to protect the rights of the people we represent, I say yes - and that means ensuring that a chemical safety bill truly protects our families in California and across the country.
We have heard from a wide range of voices in opposition to S. 1009.
• California EPA has written "to express serious concern about the effects of S. 1009 on California's ability to protect its residents...."
• The Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization said: "Asbestos victims are outraged to see [their] suggested amendments [from prior bills] regarding asbestos stripped from S. 1009."
• 24 Environmental Health and Justice Organizations said: S. 1009 "would offer too many secrecy protections for chemical companies and may limit the ability of doctors, nurses, [and] first responders ...to obtain vital information...."
• 34 legal experts said: S. 1009 as "drafted, takes a step backward...."
• The American Association for Justice said: "S. 1009 is lacking in several areas vital to the protection of public health...."
I ask to put these statements in the record, as well as letters from Attorneys General from across the nation and the National Conference of State Legislatures expressing similar concerns with S. 1009.
When people in our states vote for very specific protections from harmful toxins, their rights must not be preempted.
And I hope we all agree that victims who suffer harm from dangerous chemicals have a clear right to hold industry accountable in order to prevent further injuries and deaths.
Let me summarize a Sunday LA Times story headlined "Landmark California regulations under federal fire." It says:
California officials objected that S. 1009 not only would prohibit the state from imposing its own rules, but could invalidate several other state laws, including California's Global Warming Act of 2006.
California Atty. Gen. Harris described the measure...as "a no-win that puts Californians at risk from toxic chemicals and inhibits the development of safer...products." Her office says [S. 1009] would imperil the voter-approved Prop 65, which protects Californians from cancer.
I have listened to breast cancer victims, asbestos victims, advocates for infants and children, communities surrounded by industrial facilities, and our states who want to safeguard their citizens, as well as those who fight for the rights of injured victims. I have also listened to industry and appreciate those who look to provide consumers with greater confidence in their products.
I believe that if we all embrace the principles of protecting the most vulnerable through proven science, with fair rules for industry, with full respect for our states and victims of toxic chemicals, then we can have a strong TSCA reform bill coming out of this Committee. An EPA seal of approval can carry weight, just as an Energy Star certification carries weight.
Everyone on this Committee knows that I treasure bipartisanship. We have been a role model for working together on transportation, WRDA, formaldehyde standards, and lead-free plumbing. I know and believe we can follow that road on TSCA reform.