CHARLESTON–A diverse selection of stakeholders has praised the U.S. Senate’s passage of  Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, co-sponsored by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va), which updates regulations on the use of toxic substances that are now governed under a hodgepodge of federal and state laws.

Supporters ranging from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) to Dow Chemical Company hailed the bill, which passed the Senate by a voice vote and now heads to President Obama to be signed into law.

“Incidents like the Freedom Industries spill in Charleston demonstrate the need to ensure that the chemicals we use in our everyday live are properly regulated,” Capito said in a statement issued by her office. Its passage is “good news for the economy, our communities and the environment.”

The Lautenberg Act amends and revises the previous Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which governed the regulation of chemicals for the last 40 years. The new bill sets standards that aim to ensure that unreasonable risks to the health of individuals or the environment are not created by exposure to chemicals that are being used in a variety of commercial and industrial ways.

The original TSCA bill was enacted in 1976, a vanguard decade for environmental laws. But scientific advances since that date required adjustments to the regulations. The Lautenberg Act is also anticipated to help regulators adapt further controls as new science advances come on line.

Among the Lautenberg Act’s key provisions are rules that will help reduce and replace the use of animals in product testing.

Jessica Sandler, the vice president for regulatory testing at PETA, told the West Virginia Record that modernizing requirements for the way chemicals are tested in the U.S. reflects the changes that have already been taking place in the last 20 years, which have derived from greater understanding of how biological processes work.

“This understanding has allowed for the development of testing methods that can look directly at what happens in humans, rather than using the crude and unreliable results that come from poisoning animals,” Sandler said. 

Dow Chemical spokeswoman Rachelle Schikorra told the West Virginia Record that outdated federal regulations had long been in need of reform. 

“A lack of confidence in dated federal chemical safety regulations resulted in individual states creating their own chemicals management laws and some retailers pulling products from their shelves…," she said. "As a result, the regulatory landscape and marketplace became fractured and contradictory in some cases.” 

The Dow Chemical Company also issued a statement from Chairman/CEO Andrew N. Liveris, praising the bill’s passage, saying that it created “regulatory certainty” that will help drive investment in future projects.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency will require chemical manufacturers to pay fees to defray costs associated with additional regulations, and has established a fund to receive the fees. 

President Obama is also expected to establish an interagency Sustainable Chemistry Program, which will coordinate federal sustainable chemistry research and use training.

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