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US Senator Frank R Lautenberg dies at 89

People - Frank Lautenberg © Talk Radio News Service

US Senator Frank R Lautenberg (Democrat-New Jersey), the Senate’s oldest serving member, died on Monday morning at the age of 89. In a statement, Mr Lautenberg’s office said he “passed away due to complications from viral pneumonia.” Mr Lautenberg served five terms representing New Jersey and was the last World War II veteran serving in the US Senate. He is survived by his wife, six children and 13 grandchildren.

Mr Lautenberg was a long-time champion of environmental and public health protection. The legislation he will be remembered for includes the “Toxic Right to Know” law that empowers the public to know what pollutants are released into their neighborhood, the creation of the Chemical Safety Board, and bills to protect beaches and shorelines. He also passed laws to help prevent oil spills, clean hazardous waste sites, improve schools' indoor air quality and to ban smoking on airplanes.

Mr Lautenberg’s other legislative achievements included bills to restrict drunk driving, reduce gun violence and increase transportation safety. The health effects of industrial chemicals was an enduring interest. He often called for legislative action to increase chemical safety testing, particularly to improve health protection for infants and children.

On 15 February, Mr Lautenberg announced he would not seek a sixth term in the Senate, but outlined an agenda for the remainder of his term that included reforming US chemical safety laws, among them the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). On 22 May Mr Lautenberg announced the release of the bipartisan Chemical Safety Improvement Act of 2013 (CW 23 May 2013).

Mr Lautenberg was first elected to the Senate in 1982 and retired after three terms, but ran for reelection again in 2002. According to his office he cast well over 9,000 votes in his Senate career. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has called him “one of the most productive senators in the history of this country.”

Cal Dooley, president and CEO of the American Chemistry Council said: “Senator Frank Lautenberg was a constant champion for his constituents and a committed advocate for children and the environment. His decades of leadership on behalf of his state and the nation inspired respect and admiration from all those who worked with him. We are deeply grateful for his recent leadership to forge a bipartisan approach to chemical management reform, and it has been an honour to support his efforts. On behalf of ACC and our member companies, our deepest sympathies are with the Senator’s family, his staff and the people of New Jersey during this difficult time.”

The Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (Socma) commented: “We will remember Senator Lautenberg’s dedication and continued efforts to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act, especially the bipartisan agreement he recently reached with Senator Vitter and many of his fellow senators,” he said. “We are confident that one of his last pieces of legislation, the Chemical Safety Improvement Act of 2013, will proceed and serve as a legacy to his passion for this issue.”

Fred Krupp, president of the NGO Environmental Defense Fund, said: “Over his long career, Frank Lautenberg was a tireless advocate for protecting America’s health and environment. As a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, he helped pass laws that have made our air and water cleaner, promoted clean energy and made our families healthier.

“EDF had the honor of working with him many times over the years, most recently on one of his top priorities — a bipartisan effort to protect Americans from the toxic chemicals they encounter every day. Senator Lautenberg will be remembered as a passionate and principled statesmen who inspired all who worked with him. We will miss him dearly.”

Elizabeth Grossman

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