Statement of Senator Barbara Boxer

Press Conference on TSCA Reform Legislation

May 19, 2016

(Remarks as prepared for delivery)


I am pleased to be here today with my colleagues. 

We have come a long way, and there have been many major changes since TSCA reform legislation was originally introduced several years ago.  Let me highlight just a few. 

I fought hard to ensure that dangerous substances like asbestos are prioritized to get the attention they deserve from regulators.  Asbestos is one of the most harmful substances known to humankind -- it takes 10,000 lives a year.  Asbestos should already be banned.  I support an immediate ban, but the prioritization in this bill is a start. 

Persistent chemicals that build up in the body are also a priority. 

The bill ensures that toxic chemicals stored near drinking water are prioritized.  This provision was prompted by the serious spill that contaminated drinking water supplies in West Virginia in 2014, causing havoc and disruption in that state. 

A cancer cluster provision was added to the bill, which was based my bill with Sen. Crapo -- the Community Disease Cluster Assistance Act, or Trevor’s Law.  Trevor’s Law provides localities that ask for it a coordinated response to cancer clusters in their communities. 

All of you know that since day one I have fought for the rights of states to continue their critical work to protect their citizens from harmful toxic chemicals.  

Under our agreement, the states are free to act on any chemical until EPA takes a series of steps to regulate a specific chemical. 

Our negotiated agreement gives the states a set period of time to take action. 

In addition, our agreement clearly states that if the federal government does not complete the process to regulate a chemical within a 3.5 year period, then the states are free to act on that chemical. 

I believe our agreement is respectful of the federal government’s role and the state government’s role. 

I worked with Democratic Members in the House as they attempted to negotiate the preemption provisions in this bill.  I encouraged them to offer language and welcomed their suggestions.  Months ago, the House informed me they would handle the preemption issues. Unfortunately, no progress was made. But despite that disappointment, I am pleased with the bipartisan agreement we have reached in the Senate on the preemption issue, which had been a source of deep division until we made our breakthrough. 

Until the last minute, I hope we can make further improvements on this and other areas. I am working with everyone in both sides of the aisle and both houses to do so.

The reason I have fought -- and continue to fight -- so hard to improve the bill is because it matters to real people.  It matters to the health and safety of our children and families. 

I wish I had the option of writing this bill on my own.  Believe me, it would have been much stronger and would have allowed the states even more power, but we all know that we have to work together if we are to make any progress whatsoever.  And I view this as progress over current federal law. 

I am hopeful that we will have one more press conference to announce further improvements in the bill. 

Until that time, I want to thank all Senators and Representatives on both sides of the aisle for working with us to make this bill better.