WASHINGTON — Today, Democratic U.S. Sens. Tom Udall (N.M.), Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.), Jeff Merkley (Ore.) and Cory Booker (N.J.) announced a major breakthrough agreement in historic legislation to reform the nation's broken chemical safety law, a day before a "markup" hearing to finalize the legislation in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Following intense weekend negotiations, the bipartisan compromise agreement strengthens protections under the proposed law and expands states' authority. It is the latest sign that support is continuing to grow for the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, authored by Udall and Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), which would finally ensure the American people are protected from chemicals sold in everyday products and used in manufacturing.
"I am extremely pleased to join Senators Whitehouse, Merkley and Booker to announce this agreement. I thank them — as well as Senator Vitter — for their dogged commitment to working with us and continuing to strengthen this bipartisan bill," Udall said. "Thirty-nine years is too long to wait for a working chemical safety law that protects our families and communities in New Mexico and across the country. But finally, momentum is building for common-sense legislation to finally ensure our kids are safe from dangerous chemicals. I am very optimistic that we can pass this bill out of committee and bring it to the Senate floor and that support will keep growing in the coming days and weeks."
“The Toxic Substances Control Act is badly outdated and has failed to protect public health and the environment from toxic chemicals for decades,” said Whitehouse. “We now have an historic opportunity to update and improve the law, and I believe the agreement announced today will help give American families peace of mind that everyday products we rely on are safe. I thank Senators Udall, Vitter, and Inhofe for their leadership on this issue and for working with me and other Senators to address our concerns.”
“This bipartisan agreement greatly strengthens the ability of states to protect citizens from toxic chemicals when the federal government has failed to do so,” Merkley said. “It’s a vast improvement over the broken law currently in force and an important step in protecting families across America.”
“I am proud that we have secured important changes to the Frank Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act that will strengthen and streamline EPA’s ability to regulate toxic chemicals while still allowing states to have significant authority to regulate potentially harmful substances,” Booker said.
The Udall-Vitter bill would overhaul the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act, which was gutted by a 1991 court decision that found the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lacked the ability to ban even asbestos. The Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century bill would require EPA to consider only the health and safety impacts of a chemical — never the cost or burden to manufacturers — when assessing chemicals for safety. It ensures special protections for those most vulnerable from chemicals — defined in the bill as pregnant women, infants, the elderly and chemical workers. It sets a new fee so chemical companies will bear a larger share of the cost of evaluating and regulating chemicals. And it provides certainty in the law about when states may step in if EPA does not act to regulate or ban dangerous chemicals.
The compromise agreement was incorporated into the underlying bill and senators will vote on it at tomorrow’s markup. The agreement addresses some of the concerns that have been raised about the legislation, including when state actions would be preempted by the EPA and how states would be allowed to enforce the law. The changes strengthen protections for American consumers by making it clear that states may act to regulate a chemical if EPA misses required deadlines. It also ensures that states will get waivers to act on chemicals while EPA is evaluating them for safety. And it makes clear that states may co-enforce the law, with the condition that penalties may not be collected from both the state and the federal government for the same violation.
Further details of the agreement include:
The amendment clarifies when states may act after EPA begins evaluating a chemical:
Limitations on new state regulatory actions start when the scope of uses of a chemical is defined and end when the safety determination is made.
The date for state laws that are grandfathered under the law is moved back:
The amendment further clarifies pre-emption to state that:
Regarding the designation of a chemical as "low priority" (not a significant health or safety threat), the amendment would allow:
The amendment lowers the bar for when a chemical can be designated as "high priority" (a significant health and safety threat). It states that:
For chemicals that are "persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic" (PBT):
The amendment requires expedited action on certain well-known chemicals. It states that:
"Unreasonable risk" in the law
The amendment clarifies the deadline for implementing restrictions and prohibitions by stating that:
Imports section deleted
Industry petitioned chemicals — In addition to high-priority chemicals designated by EPA, manufacturers can petition EPA to designate additional chemicals for safety assessments and determinations.
Throughput of EPA work plan chemicals