Reach: EC adopts draft regs but set for more industry talks

29 October 2003 14:27  [Source: ICIS news]

LONDON (CNI)--The European Commission (EC) on Wednesday adopted the final draft proposals for its proposed registration, evaluation and authorisation of chemicals (Reach) legislation*.

In signing off its work on the new European chemicals policy to date, the EC said it wanted to "immediately" begin working with industry at a more detailed level on how to make the proposed regulations workable.

The EC confirmed that the last changes made to the draft proposals in recent weeks were over industry concerns about how the new, central European Chemical Agency (ECA) would work and its powers, as CNI reported earlier today.

But, while it made no comment on repeated industry requests for an independent cost impact assessment of the proposals, the Commission said that if requested - by the European Parliament or particular industry sectors - it would look further at the possible economic effects of the Reach legislation on those markets.

The EC stood by the economic impact assessment carried out by an external consultant Risk & Policy Analysis Ltd (RPA) and completed earlier this month, which put the likely direct costs to chemicals producers of the earlier Reach draft at Euro12.6bn ($14.9bn). However, following industry complaints the Commission produced a revised draft that reduced the administrative burden, which resulted in estimated direct costs to industry being cut to Euro2.3bn over 11 years. The pass-through of these costs could lead to a burden of up to Euro5.2bn on downstream users, the EC confirmed. 

Ongoing industry criticism of the RPA impact assessment, however, has led the EC to schedule a workshop for 21 November to explain the methodologies used in the study.

 
    Erkki Liikanen
 
   
However, while the Commission hopes to get further work done with industry it said that only limited progress was expected to be made next year when the Reach text goes forward for political review in the European Parliament and by the Competition Council [the group of trade secretaries of the European Union (EU) member states).

 
   
EC Enterprise Commissioner, Erkki Liikanen, said he expected elections to the European parliament, in May 2004, would prevent the proposed Reach legislation progressing to a second reading. He was confident, however, that in the remaining parliament a first reading would take place.

He said there was "no chance" of the Reach legislation being completed before the parliamentary elections.

 
 Margot Wallstrom
His anticipation of a long legislative review process was confirmed by EC Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom who said the lobbying and pressure felt by the EC during the consultations would transfer to the Parliament.

She said: "I guess it will start all over again."

The commissioners said it was vital that bipartisanship develops between the EC, industry, environmental groups and other stakeholders to ensure Reach does not wither and die. Liikanen and Wallstrom said the Reach proposals struck a good balance of minimising costs to gain health and environmental benefits.

The European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic) welcomed the EC's adoption of the final draft Reach legislation but expressed continued concerns over its workability and cost. Environmental pressure groups criticised the proposals, reiterating claims that they were weak and inadequate.

* For further information on the final draft Reach proposals, go to:

http://europa.eu.int/comm/enterprise/chemicals/chempol/whitepaper/reach.htm


By: Patrick Reynolds
+44 208 652 3214



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