Congress has done something that’s practically unheard of. It handed the Environmental Protection Agency broad new powers.

In early June, the Senate passed a sweeping bill that revamps how federal regulators handle chemical safety, after Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) lifted a last-minute hold on a vote. Because the House already passed the same reconciled version, the bill headed to President Barack Obama, who signed the legislation into law on Wednesday.

Which means a Republican-controlled Congress managed to do something that no Congress since 1976 had been able to do: Overhaul the Toxic Substances Control Act, a flawed, unenforceable law that gave the EPA just 90 days to study whether a new chemical was dangerous. It didn’t even allow the EPA to regulate asbestos-containing products, the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled in 1989.