Sen. Lautenberg’s health, environment legacy praised

“Millions of Americans are healthier and safer because of legislation he championed,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said in a Monday statement.

Lautenberg, who had served in Congress for more than 30 years, died of viral pneumonia. He was 89.

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), who sat next to Lautenberg on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said the nation lost an environmental champion. 

“We shared a passion for clean air because we both represent states whose residents, because of a concentration of downwind air pollution, face a heightened risk of chronic lung diseases like asthma, which tragically took his sister’s life over 30 years ago and drove Frank’s passion for protecting the air we breathe,” he said in a statement.

Daniel J. Weiss, a senior fellow and director of climate strategy with the left-leaning think tank the Center for American Progress, praised Lautenberg’s work on air pollution and Superfund issues.

“Sen. Frank Lautenberg brought Jersey street smarts to his battles against deadly toxic substances, and won. Among other significant successes, he was the Senate author of the Community Right to Know law, and the air toxics provisions of the Clean Air Act. His courageous leadership will be sorely missed,” Weiss said in a statement.

A previous chairman of the Environment and Public Works subcommittee on Superfund, Toxics and Environmental Health, Lautenberg used the position to push legislation aimed at beefing up the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

The New Jersey Democrat had been working on the issue for the past several years, arguing that too few chemicals receive proper screening and oversight.

Lautenberg introduced a bipartisan bill with Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), the Environment and Public Works Committee’s top Republican, last month that would beef up TSCA and give agencies more tools for managing toxic substances.

The bill racked up a sizable bipartisan list of co-sponsors, giving it promise to pass the Senate — and a chance to put Lautenberg’s stamp on the law.

Environmental and public health groups touted Lautenberg’s efforts on TSCA, and said his passing marked the departure of a key ally.

“There was no greater champion for protecting children from toxic chemicals than Senator Frank Lautenberg. In addition to working to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act, he was a powerful voice on the Environment and Public Works Committee, wrote the Toxics Release Inventory, and was a longtime leader on Superfund issues,” League of Conservation Voters President Gene Karpinski said in a statement.

Click here for more of The Hill’s coverage on Lautenberg’s passing.

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