Unhappy birthday, TSCA!
Earlier this week, I was proud to stand alongside a bipartisan group of senators and supporters to call for stronger chemical safety laws. Together, in a press conference outside the Capitol, we urged the Senate to pass a historic bill that would reform the broken Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976.
The Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 – called “TSCA” – was intended to give the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the authority to monitor and test chemicals, and regulate the ones that pose a risk to human health or the environment. But over the past four decades, this law has never worked as intended, leaving the public at risk for toxic exposure and the private sector with a broken regulatory process that has undermined innovation. What’s more, over the past 39 years, we’ve learned a lot more about toxic chemicals, the harm they can cause to our environment and public health, and how best to identify and protect against these risks.
Written by Senators Tom Udall and David Vitter, the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act would reform TSCA and better protect the public, while creating a manageable regulatory framework for American businesses and innovators. The bill builds off the work done by the late Senator Frank Lautenberg, who was a true champion of chemical safety. His widow, Bonnie Lautenberg, has carried on his dedication to the cause – and thanks much in part to her relentless efforts, the bill now has broad bipartisan support, with 60 Senate cosponsors representing 38 states.
After the bill was introduced, I worked closely with Senators Udall and Vitter for more than a year, leading countless meetings and discussions to secure enhanced protections for public health and the environment – including provisions that would protect children, pregnant women, and workers from toxic risks, ensure the EPA has access to information to assess safety risks, and allow states to enforce federal toxic safety – while also ensuring that innovation in the private sector can continue in Delaware and around the country. For the first time, this legislation will require that every chemical used in consumer products is assessed for safety. At the same time, it will offer businesses a predictable and manageable review process for chemicals that do not pose a safety hazard.
I’ll be frank – bipartisanship can be hard to find in the Senate these days, especially on issues that affect the environment. But in this case, Democrats and Republicans are coming together to improve a failed law that doesn’t work for consumers and doesn’t work for businesses. Today, we are closer than we’ve ever gotten to reforming our toxics law because both sides have compromised on policy without compromising their principles. Now we must show the American people that we can work together and get things done by moving this bill across the finish line.