Senate panel approves toxic chemical safety bill

Senate panel approves toxic chemical safety bill
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A Senate committee passed a bill Tuesday that would reform the federal government’s regulation of toxic chemicals for the first time in decades.

The bill passed by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee represents a last-minute bipartisan compromise that attracted the votes of all Republicans and four Democrats on the panel.

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The measure would overhaul the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), and is named after late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), who worked hard toward a TSCA reform bill for years before dying in 2013.

The draft bill introduced in March was criticized by most Democrats as a giveaway to the chemical industry, prompting Sens. David VitterDavid Bruce VitterBottom Line Bottom Line Top 5 races to watch in 2019 MORE (R-La.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.), its sponsors, to negotiate a new compromise.

“This work reflects the ongoing, strong, bipartisan effort between Sen. Udall and myself and others. This bill is a marked improvement over current law,” Vitter said.

“Sen. Udall and I took the concerns presented by many colleagues and stakeholders and set out to make the bill even stronger.”

The bill increases penalties for chemical violations, mandates that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) review new and existing chemicals for safety and requires that safety decisions be made solely on public health grounds.

After weeks of negotiation, the bill passed Tuesday allows states greater flexibility to regulate chemicals on which the EPA has not acted and lets states enforce rules along with the federal government, among other compromises.

Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) supported the compromise bill, along with Udall.

But while Sen. Barbara BoxerBarbara Levy BoxerHispanic civil rights icon endorses Harris for president California AG Becerra included in Bloomberg 50 list Climate debate comes full circle MORE (D-Calif.) applauded the compromises, she continued to oppose it and proposed amendments to give states even more power and require the EPA to monitor and act on cancer “clusters” in local areas.

“This is the environment committee, not the boardroom of the chemical companies,” she said, promising to vote “no” without improvements to it.

The panel did not approve any of her amendments before the 15-5 vote in favor of the bill, sending it to the full Senate for consideration.

But some of Boxer’s amendments, including those to ban asbestos and better respond to drink water spills and cancer clusters, had votes that were either tied or had margins that were within two votes.