Archives for posts with tag: chemical regulation

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Editor Sandy Johnson speaks with reporter Jack Farrell about the his story on the Koch Industries’ lobbying.

 

Link to related  iWatch article.

From :

Editor Sandy Johnson interviews reporter Jack Farrell about the latest story by the Center for Public Integrity’s iWatch News’ latest piece on Koch Industries: how the refinery giant has been spending money lobbying against federal regulations for securing chemical plants.

Link to related  iWatch article.

From The New York Times:

You might say Sen. Frank Lautenberg wants to be the grandfather of chemical regulation.

The New Jersey Democrat emotes the aura of a grandfather — so much so that even his staff pays him a reverence that goes beyond what senators typically receive from their aides.

And, like most grandfathers, Lautenberg is particularly concerned with children’s health. His eyes light up when asked about how chemicals in the environment or in day-to-day products may pose risks to children.

The 87-year-old lawmaker quickly rattles off statistics such as 5 percent of pediatric cancers, 10 percent of cognition problems in newborns and 30 percent of asthmatics are likely caused by chemical exposures. Not to mention possible links to rising autism rates.

Those statistics, Lautenberg said during a recent interview with E&E Daily in his Senate office, led him to become the chief advocate for reforming the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) — the nation’s only law for regulating chemicals.

“When you looked at TSCA and saw a piece of legislation that had almost no interest or no attention, I thought that was outrageous,” Lautenberg said. “I see families come to the Capitol. This week it was a group with diabetes. You see hundreds of kids sitting out there — not that their condition is necessarily tied to chemical presences — but when you see these children and you see the affliction that is put on them by something. That’s what gets us going.”

There is only one problem: Lautenberg’s numerous efforts at reforming TSCA so far have all failed.

But that is not stopping Lautenberg from trying again this year. The Democrat has introduced the “Safe Chemicals Act of 2011,” (S. 847 (pdf)) which calls for a seismic shift in the way chemicals are regulated by placing the burden on manufacturers to prove a chemical is safe before it goes on the market.

Talking to Lautenberg, who has served in the Senate twice — dating back to 1983 — you cannot help but get the distinct impression that the Democrat only has a few more fights left in him. After all, his term ends in 2014, when he will be 90.

But this year Lautenberg appears more likely to get something done from his perch as chairman of the Senate Environmental and Public Works Superfund, Toxics and Environmental Health Subcommittee. He notably began holding stakeholder meetings on the issue with Environment and Public Works Committee ranking member James Inhofe (R-Okla.) recently — signaling the possibility of Republican support that has never existed before — and says this year may be different (E&E Daily, June 15).

“We’ve got ourselves in position,” he said. “Persistence is our mantra. We keep chipping away at it.”

Lautenberg’s resilience on the issue has made him a hero to environmental groups who say that the 1976 law, the country’s only major environmental statute to never receive a congressional update, is woefully inadequate. Such groups say that for Lautenberg — who has had such accomplishments as banning smoking from airplanes — TSCA reform has become his holy grail, his legacy.

“He’s really been dogged,” said Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group. “This is a guy who has really been a courageous public health champion and this would be the environmental crown on his career.”

Family motivation

Lautenberg’s dedication to TSCA reform is deeply rooted in personal terms.

Many years ago, Lautenberg’s sister Marian Rosenstadt was diagnosed with asthma. She had a machine in her car, he said, that helped her during attacks.

At a school board meeting in Rye, N.Y., she felt such an attack coming on. She rushed out to her car but did not make it in time, passing out near the parking lot.

Three days later, she died at the hospital. She was 53 years old.

Lautenberg also has 13 grandchildren, some of whom have similar afflictions. One has severe asthma, another has diabetes.

“When you know how devastating some of these conditions can be, and you can prevent it …” he said, before his voice broke up slightly.

Lautenberg grew up poor, the son of Eastern European immigrants. His father died of cancer when Lautenberg was still a teenager. After serving in World War II, he went to Columbia University on the GI bill — and later started a successful paycheck processing company. One of the richest members of Congress, he has never forgotten where he came from — or the role government can play in improving people’s lives.

“I see lots of little children here,” he went on. “I love every one of these little ones. I’d like to see them healthy. … If I want my grandchildren to breathe clean air, I have to get everyone’s grandchildren to breathe clean air. Those are the fundamentals that move me along.”

More.

Center for Public Integrity: EPA chemical health hazards program has 55-year backlog of work, report says.

Eighteen months after the Environmental Protection Agency announced reforms to its controversial process for evaluating health hazards posed by dangerous chemicals, significant problems continue to hamper the program and leave the public at risk, according to a new report by a nonprofit research group.The agency has fallen years behind in meeting its statutory requirements to profile at least 255 chemicals and assess their potential links to cancer, birth defects, and other health problems. That delay has effectively halted numerous regulatory actions that would protect the public, according to the report by the Center for Progressive Reform, a public health and environmental protection group. “[The Obama administration has] been so busy reacting to the right wing and fighting off crisis after crisis that it’s been difficult for them to see this pattern of regulatory failure,” said Rena Steinzor, president of the center and a University of Maryland law professor.

The Government Accountability Office, Congressional committees, and other experts have criticized the EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) in recent years. Under President George W. Bush’s administration, critics say, the agency’s chemical assessment efforts ground to a near halt because of interference by other federal agencies, unwarranted delays, and a lack of transparency.

The GAO warned in a 2008 report that the IRISdatabase “is at serious risk of becoming obsolete.” In January 2009, the GAO added the EPA’s method for assessing and managing chemical risks to its list of“high-risk” areas requiring attention.

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