Dem lawmakers reach agreement in negotiating chemical reform bill

In negotiating how best to reform the nation's toxic chemical laws,Democratic lawmakers say they’ve reached an agreement with Republicans that will expand states’ authority to issue protections, signaling a breakthrough in efforts that have stalled in previous years.

Sens. Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallCongress fails miserably: For Asian-Americans, immigration proposals are personal attacks Senate rejects centrist immigration bill after Trump veto threat Dem senators want list of White House officials with interim security clearances MORE (N.M.), Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseCommittee chairman aims for House vote on opioid bills by Memorial Day Regulators seek to remove barriers to electric grid storage Prison sentencing bill advances over Sessions objections MORE (R.I.), Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyGrassley, Dems step up battle over judicial nominees 2020 Dem contenders travel to key primary states Mulvaney remarks on Trump budget plan spark confusion MORE (Ore.) and Corey Booker (N.J.) said they have reached an agreement in negotiations on the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, introduced by Udall and Sen. David VitterDavid Bruce VitterTrump nominates wife of ex-Louisiana senator to be federal judge Where is due process in all the sexual harassment allegations? Not the Senate's job to second-guess Alabama voters MORE (R-La.).

The bill, which aims to reform the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), was initially criticized for restricting states’ rights to issue their own protections for dangerous chemicals and for failing to ban asbestos.

The compromise agreement reached Monday would allow states to regulate a chemical if the Environmental Protection Agency(EPA) misses a required deadline in assessing that chemical, would allow states to ask for a waiver to take action on chemicals while EPA is evaluating them for safety and would keep in place any chemical laws that took effect before Aug. 1, extending the former Jan. 1, 2015 grandfather date.

The bill has also been amended to allow the public to challenge any low priority chemical designation from EPA and to clarify that cost should not be considered in regulating toxic chemicals.

While the bill is not perfect, Booker said the bipartisan consensus is a significant step forward in long-stalled efforts to improve TSCA first led by the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.).

“Senator Frank Lautenberg made strengthening federal laws to better protect Americans from toxic substances and pollutants one of his top priorities, working tirelessly to find common ground across party lines to advance important reforms of the Toxic Substances Control Act,” he said in a news release. “Reaching a bipartisan agreement to improve the legislation bearing his name is a fitting way to honor this great New Jerseyan’s legacy.”

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing Tuesday to markup the final bill and vote on whether to pass it through committee.