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Myth/Fact on The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, questioned witnesses today at the legislative hearing entitled, “Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act” (S.697).  Witnesses included Jim Jones, Assistant Administrator for the Office of the Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA);  Richard Denison, Senior Scientist for the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF);  Edward McCabe, Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer for the March of Dimes Foundation;  Lynn Goldman, Dean of the Milken Institute School of Public Health at The George Washington University;  Ken Cook, President and Co-founder of the Environmental Working Group (EWG);  and The Honorable Brian E. Frosh, Attorney General for the State of Maryland. Sens. David Vitter (R-La.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.), coauthors of the bill, were present and provided valuable input on the path forward for this historical piece of legislation.


From the hearing, the following myths and facts emerged to set the record straight on S.697:


MYTH: S. 697 will not address asbestos.

FACT: S. 697 takes a very clear “worst-first” approach.  The bill gives EPA the authority and discretion to immediately prioritize and begin a safety evaluation of asbestos or other chemicals of high concern.

Furthermore, S. 697 removes the two procedural hurdles in current law that prevented EPA from regulating asbestos in the past: the requirement that cost benefit analysis be included in any safety determination; and the requirement that EPA adopt the least burdensome regulatory requirement. 


MYTH: S. 697 is worse than current law.

FACT: S. 697 will make grant EPA a number of new authorities making oversight of chemicals stronger, more timely,  and removing barriers that have made it difficult for EPA to act by enacting significant changes including:

·         Requiring the first-ever systematic review of all chemicals in commerce.  Current law  grandfathered thousands of chemicals already on the market when TSCA was enacted, and the vast majority of them have not been reviewed for safety.

·         Making it easier for EPA to request additional testing or safety data from manufacturers.  Current law requires EPA to demonstrate an unreasonable risk of harm before it can require more testing and data, a hurdle that is often too high without the very data the agency is seeking. 

·         Ensuring that safety evaluations of chemicals are only based on health and safety information.  Current law requires EPA to consider costs and benefits when determining if a chemical is safe, a factor that should be irrelevant to a safety determination.

·         Setting hard deadlines for EPA action.  Current law does not hold EPA to deadlines, contributing to lengthy delays and years of inaction.

·         Strengthening protections for the most vulnerable including infants, children, pregnant women, workers and the elderly.  Current law does not mandate that EPA to consider exposures to these vulnerable groups.


MYTH: Supporters of S. 697 want to slash the EPA chemicals budget and do not proved the Agency with the resources they need to carry out the federal management of chemicals.

FACT: S. 697 includes a new user fees provision that gives EPA the authority to add additional resources up to 25% of the funds they get from Congress.  These user fees can be used for any number of activities to help better implement the law including prioritizing existing chemicals, conducting and completing safety assessments and determinations, and any necessary regulatory rulemakings.


MYTH: S. 697 strips states of authority to regulate the most dangerous chemicals, even when EPA has done nothing.

FACT: The only time EPA action ever impacts existing state restrictions is after a full assessment and determination on a chemical.  Where the chemical is found to meet the safety standard or after a national federal regulation is in place if a chemical is determined not to meet the safety standard.  States can continue to implement new regulations for low priority chemicals and are only preempted from imposing new restrictions on the select uses being reviewed for high priority chemicals after reviews are underway and a scope is clearly defined by the EPA.  States can also apply for waivers that would allow them to restrict high priority chemicals during reviews as well as from EPA final rules.  This process is designed to create consistent national regulations of chemicals which are of the greatest concern in order to protect all Americans.  Moreover S. 697 also grandfathers in all actions taken by states to regulate chemicals prior to January 1, 2015 regardless of future EPA decisions as well as California’s Prop 65.



At today’s legislative hearing for The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act,  EPA confirmed the bill is consistent with all six of their guiding principles for TSCA reform.  In addition, three renowned public health experts all concluded the bill was stronger than current law and significantly increased public health protections including for those most vulnerable like children and pregnant women.  The witnesses also highlighted the need for a stronger TSCA law, as opposed to a stronger TSCA bill, acknowledging a bipartisan compromise is essential to actually achieving reform.  S.697 touts strong bipartisan support in the U.S. Senate along with the support of the Environmental Defense Fund, eight state attorneys general, three former EPA General Counsel, and a former Assistant U.S. Attorney General.  Without bipartisan support, the current antiquated law from 1976 could not be updated leaving a vast majority of the American public with little to no public health protections.