Senate Rivals Unite to Overhaul Chemical Safety Laws

A bipartisan group of senators reached a compromise on a measure to overhaul U.S. chemical regulation, creating an opening for the first major expansion of environmental laws in almost two decades.

After years of tussling over a revamp of the toxic substances act, Republican Senator David Vitter joined Democrat Frank Lautenberg on a bill to require safety testing of new chemicals and give the Environmental Protection Agency authority to ban chemicals.

“This bipartisan agreement is an historic step toward meaningful reform that protects American families and consumers,” New Jersey’s Lautenberg, who has been pushing for legislation since 2005, said in a statement about the measure, which focuses on the health effects of using chemicals.

Vitter, of Louisiana, and Lautenberg are members of the Environment and Public Works Committee, which must consider and vote on the measure. The measure is co-sponsored by 14 other senators, seven Republicans and seven Democrats. It also won an initial, qualified endorsement from the American Chemistry Council, which represents companies such as Dow Chemical Co. (DOW) and 3M Co. (MMM), and the League of Conservation Voters, which has pushed for stronger oversight of the industry.

Under current law, the EPA can demand safety testing only after evidence demonstrates a chemical may be dangerous. As a result, EPA has only been able to require testing for 200 of the more than 84,000 chemicals currently registered to be used in the U.S., and has been able to ban only five since the legislation passed in 1976, according to the joint statement.

The proposed measure doesn’t deal with calls for enhanced oversight of safety in the manufacturing of chemicals.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mark Drajem in Washington at mdrajem@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jon Morgan at jmorgan97@bloomberg.net

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