Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey (D) on Monday addressed the 2016 International Association of Firefighters 2016 Legislative Convention in Washington, D.C. Markey spoke of the importance of protecting the fire service and the nation’s first responders. Video Courtesy IAFF/Youtube
“Over these forty years that I have been in congress, one of my absolutely highest goals has been to protect the firefighters of our country.” – Sen. Edward Markey
Making quick mention of his Commonwealth counterpart and union sweetheart Sen. Elizabeth Warren
, Markey assured the membership that the two Massachusetts legislators would fight just as hard as their predecessors the late Sen. Ted Kennedy and current Secretary of State John Kerry to protect their first responders.
“I’m here to talk to you about toxics, and I’m not talking about Donald Trump’s rally speeches,” Markey quipped. “I’m talking about the Toxic Substances Control Act which is also probably a good name for Ted Cruz’s Super PAC these days.”
Chemical and toxin exposure not a joking matter for the fire service, Markey turned serious.
Making allusion to the difficulties of partisan blockades and lack of collaboration between the country’s political parties, he noted
“The last Congress was the least productive in the history of our country.”
Although the future of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee remained unclear and the Flint Michigan water crisis unsolved, the senior senator said there was light in the knowledge that the legislature had passed measures aimed at combatting the country’s opioid crisis.
“Amidst this rancor, there are bright spots,” Markey said. “Last month the Senate passed bi-partisan, comprehensive legislation to combat the opioid crisis; a battle that you are waging on the front lines every day, in your communities back home.”
He also gave nod to the importance of creating a firefighter’s cancer registry, and current legislation to do so before the House.
Ticking off legislation aimed at making the work and lives of first responders more safe, he informed the membership that the Senate had passed legislation to improve the safety of natural gas distribution lines in protecting the nation’s first responders.
The “Securing America’s Future Energy: Protecting our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety(SAFE PIPES) Act, included three Markey amendments to strengthen America’s natural gas pipelines, passed by the full Senate on March 3.
Turning his focus to the antiquated Toxic Substances Control Act, he said, “This is one in which there is a glimmer of bi-partisan hopefulness. And that is the high probability that Congress will enact a comprehensive reform of the Toxic Substances Control act in the next few weeks.”
“This year Congress has the opportunity to pass a chemical safety reform bill to overhaul the Nation’s broken TSCA Act of 1976. The nearly 40 year-old Toxic Substances Control Act is the last of the major environmental laws of the 1960’s and 1970’s that has never been rewritten,” he said. “Not withstanding how much we have learned over the years about the impact these toxic substances can have on the health of people who are exposed.”
Noting firefighters’ risk exposure to the flame retardant TBB, a known carcinogen, and its predecessor PBDE, now under regulation, Markey blasted EPA for allowing TBB and other chemicals to be used before safety determinants were vetted.
The proposed Senate legislation requires the EPA to do more before a new chemical can be manufactured. The bill increases transparency and requires confidential information to be shared with medical personnel and first responders. The corresponding House legislation does not, says Markey. In fact the House legislation encourages less transparency.
“Sometimes federal regulators don’t do enough to protect people. And sometimes companies lie about the risks their chemicals cause, which means the federal regulators don’t have the information they need to do their jobs,” Markey said.
Markey and the Senate wanted an avenue for recourse and damages for those harmed by exposure to toxic chemicals. The House legislation, he said, called for an immediate dismissal of any and all lawsuits by and for those harmed.
Markey sits as the senior Democrat on the senate subcommittee of jurisdiction.
This article originally appeared on Examiner.com on April 4, 2016.