Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Senate EPW Committee Passes "Landmark" Bills

Jul 31: The Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee approved what Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) called "landmark" bills banning the importation and use of asbestos (S. 742, Murray, Isakson, Boxer et al. manager’s substitute amendment); reversing the Bush Administration’s rollback of rules requiring polluters to fully report releases of toxic chemicals (S. 595, Lautenberg et al); and requiring U.S. EPA to issue a decision on California’s request for a waiver to regulate global warming pollution from cars (S. 1785, Nelson, Boxer et al. manager’s substitute amendment, with technical correction). The Committee also approved the National Infrastructure Improvement Act, S. 775 (Carper, Voinovich et al. manager’s substitute amendment).

Senator Boxer said: “Today is a truly historic day for the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and the legislation we moved today will save lives, protect families and communities, and advance the fight against global warming. Today, we turned the page on a painful chapter in our nation’s history by reporting a bill that will finally ban asbestos and assist people who suffer from the deadly diseases it causes.

“We reversed a Bush Administration order that increased the level at which crucial information on toxic releases must be reported to nearby communities. For years, the reporting threshold was 500 pounds, but the Bush Administration increased the threshold to 2000 pounds. Our bill returns the reporting threshold to 500 pounds. Passage of the Nelson-Boxer waiver bill (S. 1785) sends a signal that EPA should stop stalling and act now on California’s request so California and 12 other states can begin setting and enforcing standards on carbon emissions from the transportation sector.”

In a release, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), sponsor of S. 742, the Ban Asbestos in America Act of 2007, indicated the 19-0 vote included strong support from Chairman Boxer (D-CA) and Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA). Next, the bill will head to the Senate floor. A date for floor consideration has not been set yet. Murray said, "I'm thrilled that the entire committee has sent a clear and loud message of support, giving us strong momentum heading to the Senate floor. To the families who have been waiting for help, to the workers who need to be protected, I'd say we're almost there. We've made great progress in the past few months, but I'm not going to stop until we cross the finish line. I'm especially heartened that my bill has garnered unanimous bipartisan support in the EPW committee. I really want to thank Chairman Boxer for her commitment to moving this bill forward and Senator Isakson for his willingness to work in a bipartisan manner." Murray's bill would ban asbestos, invest in research and treatment, and launch a public education campaign.

Senator Lautenberg (D-NJ), sponsor of S. 595 said, “My law creating the EPA’s Public Right-to-Know program has provided Americans with information about toxic chemicals stored and released in their communities. Last December, President Bush’s EPA weakened the rules to let companies report less information and keep the public in the dark. This decision by the Bush Administration was a gift to the chemical industry. People have a right to know about the toxic chemicals bordering their backyards and our bill today would restore that right.”

Senator Nelson's (D-FL) bill, S. 1785, to expedite the EPA approval of the California waiver petition, passed the Committee by a close 10-9 vote and sets the stage for what Nelson called a contentious showdown between the administration and other opponents of tougher auto emission standards versus a bipartisan coalition of governors, environmentalists and members of Congress who are all seeking cleaner air measures. Nelson filed the legislation to pave the way for Florida, and every other state, to set its own emission standards as long as they’re tougher than the limits in the federal Clean Air Act. More specifically, the bill would force federal environmental officials to act within one month on a long-delayed decision on California’s first-in-the-nation emission standards - which Florida Governor Charlie Crist adopted at a recent two-day global warming summit in Miami.

Senator Carper's (D-DE) National Infrastructure Improvement Act, S. 775 is designed to address the deteriorating condition of America’s roads, bridges, drinking water systems, dams and other public works. Carper said the legislation to establish a National Commission on Infrastructure, was included in a larger bill approved by the full EPW Committee to enhance economic growth by ensuring the nation’s infrastructure can meet current and future demands. The bill also has the support of Senator George Voinovich (R-OH), U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National Association of Counties and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Carper said, “No nation can be prosperous without maintaining its fundamental infrastructure building blocks. Economic development and public safety hinge on upgrading our nation’s infrastructure, including enhanced transportation, water quality and flood controls. As our federal budget constraints tighten, we must protect our communities’ current infrastructures and set priorities for future infrastructure investments.”

Access a release from Senator Boxer (
click here). Access a release from Senator Murray (click here). Access a release from Senator Lautenberg (click here). Access a release from Senator Nelson (click here). Access a release from Senator Carper (click here). Access legislative details for S. 742 (click here). Access legislative details for S. 595 (click here). Access legislative details for S. 1785 (click here). Access legislative details for S. 775 (click here). [*Toxics, *Climate, *Water, *Transport]