The Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee is slated to vote Wednesday on Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s (D-N.J.) sweeping plan to toughen federal chemicals regulation, Capitol Hill aides and environmentalists say.

The “Safe Chemicals Act” – which Lautenberg has been pushing in some form for years – would overhaul the Toxic Substances Control Act by imposing new requirements on the chemical industry to demonstrate the safety of its products.

Lautenberg’s bill would require manufacturers to develop and produce more data about chemicals; require the Environmental Protection Agency to prioritize chemicals based on risk; and enable EPA to take more aggressive steps to reduce exposures to so-called persistent, bioaccumulative toxics, among other provisions.

The Democratic push for more regulation comes during a week when the
full House is voting on a regulatory freeze. The GOP is seeking to pin the
weak economic recovery on over-regulation by President Obama.

Advocates of the plan call it a needed step to toughen EPA’s ability to ensure the safety of many chemicals used in consumer products.

Lautenberg is expected to introduce an amendment aimed at easing industry concerns about protection of confidential business information and other matters.

But a GOP aide said the measure is nonetheless not expected to draw any Republican votes in committee, which signals it would face an uphill battle reaching the 60 Senate votes now needed for most bills.

The Senate EPW Committee will delve into chemicals regulation ahead of the Wednesday markup with a Tuesday hearing on EPA efforts to control exposure to toxic chemicals.

Witnesses will include Jim Jones, who is EPA’s 
acting assistant administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention.

The upcoming committee vote arrives amid increasing concern about public health risks from flame-retardant chemicals used in furniture.

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