October 06, 2015

Manchin Calls for Passage of Lautenberg Act to Protect West Virginia Families From Dangerous Chemicals

On Senate floor, Senator Manchin calls for immediate action on chemical safety reform

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) today delivered remarks on the Senate floor calling on the chamber to pass the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, bipartisan legislation to protect Americans from toxic chemicals by updating the country’s outdated chemical regulatory program.

The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act is the result of a bipartisan agreement that Senator Manchin helped negotiate after nearly two years of deliberations. Lawmakers, stakeholders, and affected community leaders – like those impacted by the Freedom Industries spill in January 2014 – helped craft this groundbreaking legislation, which ensures the federal government will safely oversee consumer products to better protect American families. The legislation creates a predictable and transparent federal system to regulate the safety of chemicals based on the latest science, provides greater regulatory certainty to the chemical manufacturing industry and strikes a balance between state and federal roles in chemical safety management.

To watch a YouTube video of Senator Manchin’s remarks, please click here.

The full text of Senator’s remarks as prepared for delivery is included below:

M. President, today I rise to speak about a bill that is long overdue, and one that in part honors our dear colleague Frank Lautenberg.

I think we can all agree that the current Toxic Substances Control Act – TSCA – is inadequate and that it is long past due to reform this law.

The Toxic Substances Control Act has not been improved in more than 30 years.

In that time more than 80,000 chemicals have been registered in the U.S., many of which are used in commerce every day, yet only about 200 have undergone EPA testing.

Senator Lautenberg knew this, and that is why he worked for many years to reform this law.

And there is not one person here who can question his dedication to not only reforming this law, but also to protecting our environment and the health and safety of every American.

So I stand here today in support of this bill because Frank Lautenberg, a champion of public health, safety and the environment, a lion of the Senate, began the negotiations towards the agreement before you today because he knew it was time to fix this broken system in a way that could pass Congress and make Americans safer.

But I know that this bill is not only important to the American people, but it is vital to the people of West Virginia.

Reforming TSCA would establish much-needed regulatory certainty for the chemical industry, which directly and indirectly employs about 40,000 West Virginians and over 800,000 people nationwide.

When Senator Lautenberg met with Senator Vitter, he toughened many of the most important provisions in this bill. And Senator Udall has taken up this effort, further strengthening the bill.

The bill we have before us includes increased states’ rights under preemption.

It ensures that doctors, first responders, and government health and environmental officials would have greater access to confidential business information to guarantee that those potentially exposed to harmful chemicals could receive the best possible treatment.

Most importantly it contains a safety standard that, unlike current law, is based solely on human health and the environment and includes no cost-benefit analysis.

It would ensure that all chemicals undergo safety reviews and that first responders and states have access to this information.

During the Freedom Industry spill in my state in January 2014, we had very little information on the health and environmental impacts of crude MCHM.

In July of last year, I pushed the NIH and CDC to conduct further studies into the potential health impacts of crude MCHM.

This month, the NIH’s National Toxicology Program concluded their study into crude MCHM and indicated that no long-term health effects should be expected for residents who were impacted.

While I am thrilled with these findings, we shouldn’t have to wait more than a year to get safety information on the chemicals in question.

This bill would require the EPA to systematically review all chemicals in commerce for the first time ever. While this will be a long process, it is far superior to the current system that allows the chemicals we use every day to go untested for health impacts.

Some of my colleagues have argued that this bill could be better.

I am sure it could be, but I have been in the legislative process since 1982, working with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to reach commonsense compromises and never once have I had a perfect bill before me.

I don’t know what a perfect bill looks like.

I do know that before I decide to vote for a bill I ask myself three things: will this improve the quality of life of my constituents; is it better than the status quo; and have we worked as hard as we can to preserve our core beliefs. For me, the Frank Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act is a yes on all three of those.

Senator Lautenberg was a smart legislator, who knew it was time to move past partisan politics and craft a bill that would finally protect all Americans. We all know that Senator Lautenberg viewed TSCA reform – viewed this bill– as his legacy. He worked tirelessly for years leading up to his final days in the Senate to craft bipartisan legislation that will protect the health and safety of all Americans.

This bill not only protects the health and safety of all Americans, but also protect hundreds of thousands of jobs nationwide.

In honor of a great public servant, Senator Frank Lautenberg, I urge my colleagues to move forward and pass this bipartisan bill, the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act.