• The legislation provides "clear paths" to getting new chemicals on the market, while protecting trade secrets and intellectual property from disclosure.
While generally supportive of the legislation, citizen groups also noted some weaknesses, such as the lack of firm deadlines for many EPA actions.
"It certainly is a compromise bill, but it represents a pretty major political breakthrough," said Richard Dennison, a senior scientist with the Environmental Defense Fund.
Over the past few months, industry officials had been aggressively lobbying Manchin, and environmental groups believed Manchin was close to signing on to Vitter's bill, a move that would give that version a key Democratic vote.
Instead, Manchin urged Lautenberg and Vitter to try to work toward a bill they could both live with, according to accounts from citizen and industry organizations that closely followed the talks.
Manchin's involvement "helped create a dynamic" that brought Lautenberg and Vitter together, said Cal Dooley, CEO of the American Chemistry Council, an industry group.
"[Manchin] brought them both in and said, 'I prefer the more conservative approach, but I'd like you guys to work this out,'" said Andy Igrejas, director of the Safer Chemicals Healthy Families Coalition, which has pushed for a strong TSCA bill.
As governor -- and since joining the Senate -- Manchin wasn't known as an especially strong advocate for tougher environmental regulations. When he was governor, Manchin was criticized when he urged the West Virginia Supreme Court to hear an appeal of a nearly $200 million punitive-damages jury award against DuPont in a case over pollution of the Harrison County community of Spelter by a zinc smelter.
During his first two years in the Senate, Manchin has a 54 percent voting record on environmental issues, as scored by the League of Conservation Voters. He received poor marks, in large part, because of his efforts to protect the coal industry from tougher water and air pollution restrictions.
On the chemical safety bill, though, Manchin was lobbied not just by traditional environmental groups, but also by organizations advocating for children's health, including the Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, whose bishop, the Rev. Michael Bransfield, wrote to Manchin in January to urge him to support Lautenberg's bill.
"I urge you to support this initiative to protect the health of the most vulnerable among us, and to resist attempts to weaken such efforts," Bransfield wrote.
"Our understanding is that [Manchin] played a significant role in bringing the two sides together," said Stephen Smith, director of the West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families Coalition, another group that discussed the issue with Manchin. "This was basically an issue that was at a standstill."
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.