15 September 2005 17:55 [Source: ICIS news]
By Nigel Davis
LONDON (ICIS news)--So is compromise being reached?
Industry broadly welcomed today the final votes by important European Parliament (EP) committees on the European Commission’s (EC’s) proposed new chemicals policy. It looks as though the legislation is moving away from that tabled almost two years ago towards something that will be more workable.
Understandably there are parts of the proposals chemical companies do not like. MEPs (members of the European Parliament) are talking now, however, about opt-outs that might alleviate some of their concerns. (Guido Sacconi, rapporteur for the EP's environment committee, right and Lena Ek, rapporteur for the industry committee, left.)
Momentum in the legislative process has been maintained but once again the timetable has slipped and it looks as though a first reading by parliament will not be possible until November – 28 October had been an earlier preferred date. This has a lot to do with the sheer number of amendments – 5,000 and more are being talked about. The parliamentary committees given the task of assessing the EC’s draft are suggesting considerable change.
The industry committee and the internal market and consumer protection committee have indicated what they want to see in Reach. The influential environment committee, which will take the proposals into parliament, votes on 4 October. In the meantime, a revised Reach draft prepared by the UK (which holds the presidency of the European Union) has been discussed by ad hoc committees of the EU’s Council of Ministers. That document seeks to streamline Reach and allay many of the fears of the companies that will be subject to the new regulation.
In the final analysis, however, Reach will have to be better than the many pieces of legislation it replaces. So it will have to have teeth. A great deal of attention is being paid now to the registration process and how that will be organised. Companies might expect in the end to have to submit more detailed health and safety information on the chemicals they produce, import and use, rather than less.
Not a great deal is being said currently about the evaluation and authorisation processes, but it will be here that the regulation has bite.
The EU wants to identify and regulate better than it does now chemicals that might harm its citizens. MEPs say the new chemicals agency needs to be given more responsibility, but as environmentalists note, it needs the resources if it is effectively to do its job. If the European Union is not creating a monster, it runs the risk of creating a regulation of monstrous proportions.
Reach must prove effective in the way it is used to manage chemicals that present the most risk. If it is to do that, ways have to be found to tame the beast.
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