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July 31, 2013

Inhofe Opening Statement at EPW Hearing Entitled, “Strengthening Public Health Protections by Addressing Toxic Chemical Threats”

    

As prepared for delivery:

Madam Chairman, thank you for agreeing to hold this hearing on the role of EPA in regulating chemicals in commerce.

I must take this opportunity to talk about my friend, Frank Lautenberg, and his decades-long commitment to exploring the appropriate federal role in chemical safety and security.

I can remember when Frank and I started working on TSCA reform a decade ago, back when I was the Chairman and Ranking Member of this Committee.  We agreed that the thousands of chemicals in commerce are the backbone of the American economy.  Left unchecked, these rules could ultimately yield an unworkable patchwork of state regulations, neither creating needed business certainty nor providing adequate protection to the public.

In our many discussions on these issues, Frank would readily admit that TSCA was in desperate need of modernization, and that any reform package needed to improve public protection while providing essential regulatory certainty for the growing chemical and manufacturing industries, a cornerstone of his state’s economy.

Although we disagreed on many issues, TSCA reform was something we always agreed needed to happen.  As Ranking Member, he and I went back and forth a number of times over the years, but we weren’t ever able to broker an effective compromise.

Earlier this year when we were on the floor, Frank told me that he and Senator Vitter were close to an agreement.  While I was concerned he was embellishing a bit, today proves that we’re in a different place – a historic place.  And I am proud to be one of this bill’s strongest supporters. 

I congratulate the Ranking Member for his perseverance, for working closely with Frank to come up with this bill.  I don’t think we can understate the magnitude of this opportunity – in a time of such partisan fighting over environmental laws, here we have a bill that, if enacted, would represent the first major overhaul of any environmental law since 1990.

Everyone agrees that TSCA needs to be amended, and now we have a bipartisan bill that has the support of 26 Senators, industry, and environmental groups.

I am sad Frank Lautenberg is no longer here with us, so that he could see his bill cross the finish line.  But if he were here, I think he’d be pleased with this hearing.  In the second panel, we’re going to hear from Steve Owens and Linda Fisher, who served as head of the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention at EPA under Presidents Obama and Bush, respectively.  In those capacities they were responsible for implementing TSCA.  Today – despite being on opposite sides of the aisle – they both agree that it’s time to bring TSCA into the 21st Century and believe that Frank’s bill will be a significant improvement compared to current law.

I know that the Chairman of the Committee and some others may have some issues with certain aspects of this bill, but this bill is a compromise.  And compromise requires flexibility.  This bill is the product of everyone’s flexibility.  And if we start trying to stretch one side or another, it’s going to lose what it has right now – and that is bipartisan support that should make this bill passable.  We need to fix this dysfunctional law and use the bipartisan compromise that recognizes the decades of work Frank put into this, for his legacy and the good of the country.

TSCA must be reformed because the recent boom in natural gas production – the result of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling – has helped feed an aggressive expansion of the U.S. manufacturing and chemical sectors.  Chemical manufacturers alone have recently announced $72 billion in new investments that will create up to 310,000 new jobs.  If we do not update TSCA, or if we take reform down a different path than the one charted by Senator Lautenberg, then this renaissance of activity, and the future of our nation’s dominance of the international chemical and manufacturing sectors, will be put at risk.  Regulatory uncertainty chills innovation, and this reform bill charts a steady course for the future.  I am eager to see this legislation pass the Senate.

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