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ACI 2014: Senator Vitter optimistic about prospects for CSIA passage this year

10:31 AM MST | January 31, 2014 | Robert Westervelt in Orlando, FL

Senator David Vitter (R., LA) told attendees Friday at ACI’s 2014 Annual Meeting, currently being held in Orlando, FL, that he is hopeful that chemical management reform will clear Congress this year.

The Chemical Safety Improvement Act (CSIA), introduced last May by the late Senator Frank Lautenberg (D., NJ) and Senator Vitter, has been lauded by industry, lawmakers, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) as a solid compromise that addresses Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) inadequacies. Lautenberg passed away two months after the bill was introduced.

“Since Frank’s unfortunate passing we have had a long, winding road trying to get the bill to mark up, but we are making definite progress,” Vitter says. Senator Tom Udall (D., NM) has taken up the bill’s leadership role on the Democratic side since Lautenberg’s passing. “We [continue] to fine tune the bill and will hopefully introduce an updated draft soon,” Vitter says. The revised bill should have even broader support than the 25 current senators who already agreed to co-sponsor CSIA, Vitter adds. 

“There needs to be a core to the bill that cannot change,” Vitter says. “That includes my unwavering position that we need strong preemption as well as strong protection for confidential business information.” TSCA reform must ensure that new chemicals can move into commerce quickly and allow the US to remain an innovation leader, Vitter tells ACI attendees. “Given the importance of these issues and the far-reaching economic impacts, it is critical to get this right,” Vitter adds. “Reform needs to be mindful of confidential business information and use a weight-of-evidence approach [to assessment] that is based on sound science.”

Vitter announced plans last week to run for governor of Louisiana in 2015, but says CSIA passage remains a top priority for him this year. “I am very determined to get this done,” Vitter says. “At the top of my list of accomplishments that I want is TSCA reform.”

In response to a question on how to overcome opposition to CSIA by Senator Barbara Boxer (D., CA), who is chair of the Senate’s Environment and Public Works (EPW) committee, Vitter says that an updated bill will include specific language with protections for California’s Proposition 65 that will not affect the broader preemption provisions of this bill. “The big roadblock to put it simply is Senator Boxer, but we have been building the case. It’s overwhelming now, and I think it will be even more overwhelming in a few weeks and show she is the outlier here, even on the Democratic side, because of particular California preemption concerns.” Vitter hopes the effort to build broader bipartisan support for the bill and address Proposition 65 will allow the bill to proceed. “I’m not predicting that Senator Boxer will vote for the bill or become a cosponsor, but I’m very hopeful this will move the process,” he says. Vitter is ranking minority member of the Senate EPW committee, and CSIA first needs to pass an EPW committee vote before moving on to the full Senate. 

Vitter also expressed confidence that any House action on chemical management reform would be aligned with the Senate bill. CSIA supporters have been working closely with Representative John Shimkus (R., IL), chair of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy committee that will take up chemical management reform in the House. “We don’t want to have this go through the Senate and then have a different House bill that causes a big tussle in conference,” Vitter says. “The language will not be identical, but I am very hopeful that the House bill will be very close and lead to a quick and easy conference. The House has been involved in the process from the very start."

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