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Inhofe Cosponsors Landmark Legislation to Protect Our Families from Toxic Chemicals


WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, today issued the following statement in support of 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 cosponsored by Inhofe:       


"I am proud to be a cosponsor of the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act which was released today with strong bipartisan support touting eight Democrats and nine Republicans.  This law has not been updated since 1976, and for the first time we have a real chance at bipartisan reform that will require a review of all active chemicals in commerce.   The bill strengthens protections for all Americans while creating a uniform federal system to ensure more regulatory certainty for consumers and industry.  I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee in moving forward with the first major environmental update in decades and working to get this bill not only through the committee and senate but signed into law."


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 as it has failed to ban even dangerous chemicals like asbestos.   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 cosponsors included Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), 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.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), 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:


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.


Balances State and Federal Regulations 

- Grandfathers in State regulations on chemicals enacted prior to January 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.


A full overview of the Udall-Vitter bill can be found here.