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Losing a Champion for Air, Water and Land

There was a time that airline travel exposed passengers to a deadly peril: secondhand cigarette smoke. Not so for more than 25 years now, thanks to the dogged persistence of Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who pushed for and successfully passed a smoking prohibition on flights which led to smoke-free workplaces and other areas.

Last week Sen. Lautenberg died after a long illness and Americans lost an unwavering champion who also went to bat for clean air, water and land. Sen. Lautenberg championed Superfund, passed vital laws that kept NJ’s drinking water clean, combatted climate change, and aimed to keep our communities, oceans and waterways clear from toxic waste. His passing is a blow to all of us.

One of Sen. Lautenberg’s final efforts was overhauling the weak and outdated Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976. Lautenberg aimed to breathe new life into what he called “a long-dead statute” by proposing that the EPA be empowered to get tough on toxic chemicals. The senator spent nearly the last 10 years on this issue. Sen. Lautenberg said of the issue:

Chemical safety reform is not a Democratic or Republican issue; it is a common-sense issue.

On May 22, Sen. Lautenberg joined with David Vitter (R-LA) to jointly introduce the Chemical Safety Improvement Act of 2013. While the legislation is a step toward TSCA reform, Earthjustice has called on Congress to strengthen the final bill.

Here is what Earthjustice’s President Trip Van Noppen had to say about Sen. Lautenberg’s passing:

The Senate and our nation have lost a guardian for the health, safety and environmental quality of our homes, workplaces and communities. Sen. Lautenberg passed vital laws that kept NJ’s drinking water clean, combatted climate change, and aimed to keep our communities, oceans and waterways clear from toxic waste. Sen. Lautenberg also was known for his steadfast commitment to protecting all Americans, especially children, from the risks of toxic chemicals.

Congress must carry forth his legacy and fight for protections against toxic chemicals. We call on more Congressional leaders to protect Americans’ public health and the environment.

You are greatly missed, Sen. Lautenberg.

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unEARTHED is a forum for the voices and stories of the people behind Earthjustice's work. The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the opinion or position of Earthjustice or its board, clients, or funders. Learn more about Earthjustice.