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Sept. 29 — Legislation overhauling how the U.S. regulates its chemicals for the first time since 1976 could hit the Senate floor in the “next day or so,” the office of Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and several other Senate aides said Sept. 29, after negotiators closed in on an agreement with Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) that would allow consideration of the bill to proceed.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), the Senate's number-two Republican, told Bloomberg BNA Sept. 29 he expects the Senate to “take that up in October,” referring to the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (S. 697). The bill currently has 56 co-sponsors from across 36 states.
“Senator Udall is very optimistic that we could see the Lautenberg chemical reform bill on the floor in the next day or so thanks to collaborative input from other senators in recent days,” Jennifer Talhelm, Udall’s spokeswoman, told Bloomberg BNA Sept. 29. “We hope we are very close to passing the bill out of the Senate.”
The bill, sponsored by Udall and Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), would update the Toxic Substances Control Act, which governs industrial and other commercial uses of chemicals in the U.S. Supporters of the bill include Dupont, 3M, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, American Chemistry Council, BASF Corp., Consumer Electronics Association, Dow Chemical Co. and the National Association of Manufacturers, among others.
Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), would not confirm the bill's timing: “We have not announced any timing on the bill. Still.” McConnell has previously named the TSCA reform legislation a good candidate for the chamber's consideration and multiple senators predicted it would garner 80 to 85 votes upon reaching the floor.
News of the bill's possible floor consideration comes as two state organizations urged Senate leadership to incorporate further changes to measure in order to better protect the ability of states to manage chemical risks.
A key obstacle to the bill advancing in the Senate has been Boxer, who views the bill as detrimental to chemical safety protections, but a Republican Senate aide with knowledge of the bill said the California Democrat was ready to drop her objections to the bill.
Boxer told Bloomberg BNA she and negotiators were “close” to an agreement that would allow consideration of the bill to proceed but declined to specify what it would look like.
“I’m not going to tell you what I’m negotiating, but it’s going very well,” Boxer said of the negotiations.
Even amid that progress, the Republican aide said a new hang-up has emerged: Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) is seeking to attach an amendment to the bill that would reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which would be a poison pill in the House.
The fund, which uses revenues from offshore oil and gas development to establish national parks and other public spaces, is set to expire at the end of September.
A Burr spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Benjamin Dunham, former chief counsel to the late New Jersey Democrat Lautenberg, told Bloomberg BNA talks were ongoing in the Senate and “nothing has been finalized.”
“A lot could change in the next few hours, but I think it’s more likely than not that we’ll see TSCA on the floor this week,” Dunham, now a senior managing director with Dentons, said.
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