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The House on Tuesday voted overwhelmingly to pass an overhaul to the nation’s chemical safety standards for the first time in four decades.
The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act aims to answer years of complaints that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lacks the necessary authority to oversee and control the thousands of chemicals being produced and sold in the United States.
It also significantly clamps down on states’ authorities in an effort to stop a nationwide patchwork of chemical laws that industry says is difficult to deal with.
The House passage by a 403-12 vote is a significant step for the bill after years of legislative work, negotiations and wrangling. Nine Democrats and three Republicans voted nay.
The Senate is expected to pass it later this week, and President Obama supports it as well.
“This is sweeping legislation, Mr. Speaker, with monumental benefits for virtually every man, woman and child in the United States,” Rep. John ShimkusJohn Mondy ShimkusSome in GOP begin testing party's lockstep loyalty to Trump Davis passes on bid for governor in Illinois, running for reelection to House GOP ekes out win in return of Congressional Baseball Game MORE (R-Ill.), the bill’s lead sponsor in the House and the chairman of the subcommittee with jurisdiction over the issue, said Tuesday on the House floor.
“There is a widespread acknowledgement and understanding that nobody is well-served by the current law,” Shimkus added, calling the Lautenberg bill “a vast improvement over current law, and a careful compromise that is good for consumers, good for jobs and good for the environment.”
Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said the bill is far from perfect, but a significant improvement over the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976.
“Reforming this law is about preventing injuries and saving lives,” Pallone said. “It is about protecting vulnerable populations — infants, children, workers, the elderly, and communities that are disproportionately exposed to toxic chemicals. It is about getting dangerous chemicals like lead, mercury and asbestos out of consumer products, out of commerce, and out of the environment.”
Pallone was one of the last holdouts in the negotiations over the bill, having signed on as a supporter only Monday. He, along with Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiMan who threatened to kill Ocasio-Cortez, Pelosi pleads guilty to federal charges The Hill's 12:30 Report: Dems look to repackage BBB into salvageable bill The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden clarifies his remarks on Russia MORE (D-Calif.) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), secured some additional changes at the last minute that they said beefed up states’ authority to keep regulating chemicals in some instances.
“While this is a compromise bill, it is a long-overdue step forward in protecting families and communities from toxic chemicals,” Pallone said.
Rep. Paul TonkoPaul David TonkoThe Biden administration's first year: Slow and steady does not win this race Hillicon Valley — Inside the Twitter shakeup Lawmakers take aim at 'Grinches' using bots to target consumers during holidays MORE (D-N.Y.), the top Democrat on the subcommittee of authority, was not swayed by the negotiations and said he opposes the bill.
“In some ways, this bill will improve current law,” he said. “But for every positive step to protect public health and the environment, there are numerous steps back that undermine those goals.”
Tonko highlighted numerous problems, but said state pre-emption was the biggest.
“Under this bill, states lose those rights to ban a chemical, and a waiver would be more difficult to obtain than under current law,” he said. “Without a working federal program, it has fallen upon states to lead the fight to get the most harmful chemicals out of commerce.”
Senate leaders are trying to fast-track the bill’s consideration, which would likely have it passed by the end of the week and on Obama’s desk.