July 31, 2013

Manchin Testifies at Environment Committee on Need to Pass Bipartisan Chemical Safety Bill

Senator Manchin urges colleagues to reform Toxic Substances Control Act to protect health and safety of all Americans and environment

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) today testified before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works to urge his colleagues to expedite the passage of the Chemical Safety Improvement Act (CSIA) and honor the late Senator Frank Lautenberg’s legacy to better protect the health and safety of all Americans. The bipartisan bill, crafted by Senator Frank Lautenberg and Senator David Vitter, would reform the Toxic Substances Control Act, which has not been improved in more than 30 years, and would ensure the chemicals Americans use every day are safe for people and for our environment. It would also establish much-needed regulatory certainty for the chemical industry, which directly employs more than 48,000 West Virginians and over 800,000 people nationwide.

“In honor of a great public servant, Senator Frank Lautenberg, I urge my colleagues to move forward and pass this bipartisan bill that not only protects the health and safety of all Americans, but also protect hundreds of thousands of jobs nationwide,” Senator Manchin said. “I am proud to work with a bipartisan group that came together and worked hard to solve a critical problem that was long overdue, and I hope it serves as a model for future agreements. This bill proves that bipartisan compromise can still work in Washington when people are committed to working together to find commonsense solutions. Our agreement shows that protecting our health and environment does not have to impede our economic growth and job creation.” 

To watch Senator Manchin’s testimony, please click here.

Below is Senator Manchin’s testimony as prepared for delivery:

Thank you Chairwoman Boxer and Ranking Member Vitter for holding this hearing today and for allowing me to speak about an incredibly important piece of legislation – the Chemical Safety Improvement Act.

I also want to thank Mike Dorsey, from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, who came to Washington to testify about his support for CSIA earlier today.

We all agree that the Toxic Substances Control Act – TSCA – is inadequate and that it is long past due to reform this law. Senator Lautenberg had worked for many years to do just that – I don’t think anyone here today can question his dedication to protecting the health and safety of Americans. That’s why I was disheartened when I read news reports that some members of this committee questioned Senator Lautenberg’s faculties during the CSIA negotiations. He entered into these negotiations, with all his years of experience, skills, and wisdom, because he knew that it was time to craft a bipartisan TSCA reform bill. To suggest otherwise, and to attack the integrity of such a strong defender of public health, is something that should offend all Americans.

Let me be clear, Frank Lautenberg, a champion of public health, safety and the environment, a lion of the Senate, negotiated the agreement before you because he knew it was time to fix this broken system in a way that could pass Congress and make Americans safer.

To say anything else is not fair, not true, and dishonors the legacy of Senator Lautenberg, a great and proud American. Some of the same people have also argued that this bill is worse than current law. That is just another cheap attempt to try and distort the tireless work Senator Lautenberg gave to the bill.

When Senator Lautenberg met with Senator Vitter, he toughened many of the most important provisions in this bill. He increased states’ rights under preemption. He ensured that doctors and private citizens, including parents and workers, 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, he crafted a safety standard that, unlike current law and unlike what Senator Vitter wanted, is based solely on human health and the environment and includes no cost-benefit analysis.

CSIA will establish, for the first time, an effective framework for the EPA to ensure that the chemicals we use every day are safe for people and for the environment. CSIA will require safety evaluations for both new chemicals and the thousands of currently untested chemicals we encounter daily. It will allow the EPA to take meaningful action against chemicals that pose a threat to human health and safety. And it will allow state and local governments to weigh-in on the whole process.

I’d like to talk a little more about that last statement. CSIA balances state authority within a greatly strengthened federal system that will allow industry to produce safer chemicals nationally. It also forces the federal government to finally step up and protect the health and safety of all Americans, including those in smaller states like West Virginia, where there are just not sufficient resources to test and regulate the chemicals that need to be regulated.

These new protections will not come at the expense of the good paying jobs provided by the chemical industry, however. On the contrary, CSIA will finally provide the regulatory certainty we need for continued economic growth, innovation, and job creation. The chemical industry directly employs over 9,000 hardworking people in my state of West Virginia and hundreds of thousands more across the United States. More than 48,000 West Virginians are employed by sectors that rely on the chemical industry for their business and one-quarter of our nation’s GDP comes from these chemical-reliant industries. CSIA will protect not only these jobs and their contributions to the American economy, but also protect the welfare and wellbeing of the American public.

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, but I know when 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, CSIA 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 this bipartisan legislation that will protect the health and safety of all Americans. I am proud to be a small part of this legislation and I will continue to fight for the legacy of my friend Senator Lautenberg. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and I am very encouraged by the commitment that Senator Vitter and Senator Udall have made to move CSIA forward in a truly bipartisan manner. I encourage the committee to send this bill to the floor.