Achieving Regulatory Reform and Improving Chemical Safety Laws

In South Dakota, we understand that overregulation and too much bureaucracy hinder economic growth and productivity. We work best when government gets out of the way, and we have low unemployment and a strong economy to show for it. Unfortunately, this tried-and-true principle has seemingly been lost at the federal level: we have more than 1 million federal regulations on the books today and are writing new ones at the rate of 3,500 per year. I have spent a good part of my time in the Senate seeking to reform the regulatory environment and reduce the regulatory burden placed on Americans today.

While many efforts have been road blocked by a regulation-hungry president and his Democrat counterparts in Congress, there is at least one regulatory reform success story. After years of hard work, this summer the House and Senate passed – and President Obama signed into law – the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act. The Lautenberg Act is the first major reform of the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) since it was enacted 40 years ago. TSCA is the law that gives the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) authority to review and regulate chemicals in commerce. I applaud Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Chairman Jim Inhofe, Senator David Vitter, Senator Tom Udall and the entire committee for their diligence in seeing this law enacted.

The Lautenberg Act will help make sure South Dakota families are protected from harmful toxic chemicals by creating safeguards and oversight requirements. Over the last 40 years, the shortcomings of the well-intended but broken TSCA law have made it difficult for the EPA to monitor the safety of chemicals found in products American families use every day.

It will also support millions of jobs and spur economic growth by providing regulatory certainty for American businesses. For too long, job creators and manufacturers have suffered from inconsistent guidance of what chemicals can be used in their products. Now, they will have the certainty they need to safely invest in new manufacturing endeavors.

When working on the Lautenberg Act, the Senate EPW Committee, of which I am a member, took into account the oversight that we have been regularly conducting over the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act, and addressed problems we found in these laws in order to make TSCA a smarter, more conservative regulatory agent that won the support of all principal stakeholders. As a result, the Lautenberg Act will require that the EPA's regulatory decisions be based on the best available science and require the agency to show their work to the public and Congress.

Further, no longer can chemical regulations that are the result of cherry-picked data justify a politically-motivated regulatory outcome that is forced on job creators at the state or federal level. Instead, the EPA will need to justify its decisions by a substantial evidence standard and by using transparent scientific information while also taking into account costs when proposing any potential regulation.

The Lautenberg Act both protects public health and strengthens our economy, including the $8 billion chemical industry that impacts more than 7 million related American jobs and is the catalyst for almost all U.S. manufacturing. It is proof that regulatory reform is possible, even under the current political environment. I will continue working with my colleagues to achieve similar reforms in other areas of government.