Boxer introduces her own chemical reform legislation

Displeased with legislation introduced earlier this week, Sens. Barbara BoxerBarbara BoxerBarbara Boxer recounts harassment on Capitol Hill: ‘The entire audience started laughing’ 100 years of the Blue Slip courtesy Four more lawmakers say they’ve been sexually harassed by colleagues in Congress MORE (D-Calif.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) have drafted their own bill to reform the nation’s chemical laws.

The Alan Reinstein and Trevor Schaefer Toxic Chemical Protection Act unveiled Thursday requires the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to act quickly to consider a ban on asbestos and maintains states’ rights to protect people from dangerous toxic chemicals. Environmentalists said the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, which Sens. Tom Udall  (D-N.M.) and David Vitter (R-La.) introduced on Tuesday, failed to address those issues.

Lawmakers have long agreed there is a need to reform the Toxic Chemicals Control Act, which is widely viewed as a broken and unenforceable law, but the consensus ends there.

Though Udall and Vitter said they spent two years working with both environmentalists and industry groups to draft a bipartisan bill, the Environmental Working Group, backed by consumer advocate Erin Brockovich, claim the legislation was driven by the chemical industry.

"We invited them to the table and they turned us down," Udall's spokeswoman Jennifer Talhelm said Wednesday about EWG.

As for Boxer, she’s been one of the most vocal outliers of chemical policy reform since efforts to fix the law began.  

“This bill addresses asbestos, children’s cancer, and other threats that toxic chemicals pose to our families, including cardiovascular disease, developmental disorders, respiratory disorders, neurological disorders, endocrine disruption, and many others,” she said in a statement of her legislation.  “Our citizens deserve nothing less than a bill that protects them – not chemical companies.” 

The bill is named after Alan Reinstein, who died in 2006 at the age of 66 from mesothelioma, a disease associated with exposure to asbestos; and Trevor Schaefer, a brain cancer survivor who was diagnosed with the disease 12 years ago at the age of 13.

Safer Chemicals, Health Families called the Boxer-Markey bill a clear win for public health and the environment over the Udall-Vitter bill, which the group said earlier this week has “serious flaws.”

In a statement, Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families Director Andy Igrejas said the Boxer bill requires the EPA to take expedited action on the worst chemicals and establishes a more aggressive schedule for reviewing the remaining chemicals.

“Unlike the Vitter-Udall bill, it does not have a downside risk for public health because there aren't any rollbacks in it, and state governments remain free to use their authority to protect their citizens,” he said. “We urge Congress to give it their full consideration."