01 December 2006 13:44 [Source: ICIS news]
By Nigel Davis
LONDON (ICIS news)--Ground-breaking changes to the way chemicals are regulated in Europe were set to become law next year after legislators struck a compromise on the EU’s controversial REACH proposals, officials said on Friday.
The European Parliament was also expected to back the latest agreed position on REACH, further ensuring the regulation is in place in the second quarter of next year.
The bill will be put before a full Parliament hearing at the plenary session on December 13 but is considered by most in ?xml:namespace>
The latest Reach package, which focuses on how chemicals will be authorised for sale in Europe under the new rules, would be backed by conservatives, socialists and liberals in the parliament, a European parliament environment committee spokesman said.
Green's and former communists MEPs were expected to vote against amendments to the 800 page text.
A package of compromises to tighten chemicals control under REACH was agreed informally on Thursday evening at meeting between the parliament,
The latest compromise position focuses on how the EU will authorise chemicals for sale in
One of the main sticking points had been the authorisation procedure which should apply to around 3,000 substances of "high concern".
The compromise states that producers will be granted authorisation only if they develop substitution plans; where alternatives do not exist, producers will be obliged to propose research and development that could lead to a substitute.
Industry can continue to use endocrine disrupters, but this approach will be reviewed in six years when experts will decide whether safer alternatives have been developed, and whether the socio-economic benefits of using these "high risk" substances are higher than the risk to human health or the environment.
The compromise includes a "duty of care" clause stating that all chemical substances should, "under reasonable foreseeable circumstances", not adversely affect human health or the environment.
The Parliament has won its desire to appoint two members of the Helsinki-based European Chemicals Agency and for the right to have a hearing with the Agency's executive director before he/she is appointed.
Guido Sacconi, the Parliament's rapporteur on REACH, said: "The compromise on the table will lead to a balanced system, capable of securing a high level of public health and environmental protection while maintaining the competitiveness of the European industry and boosting innovation and the development of safer chemicals".
Sacconi agreed that REACH would leave the chemical industry with more work, but said the compromise made the original proposal more workable.
He added that costs for industry will be reduced through a "one substance one registration" process and highlighted that data protection had been extended from three to six years.
"REACH can be distinguished from so many other areas of EU law by the profound impact it will have on the down-stream businesses who are far removed from chemical manufacture," Nigel Howorth, partner at Clifford Chance LLP said.
"It is of great concern, however understandable, that so many businesses are unprepared for the administrative burden and expense that REACH is likely to cause."
The compromise was however rejected by green groups, which said the deal would allow many chemicals of "very high concern - including many that cause cancer, birth defects and other serious illnesses" - to stay on the market.
"The decision that substitution plans will only be submitted when the applicant company itself identifies a safer alternative is an incentive for chemical companies to continue ignoring safer alternatives," the WWF said in a statement.
Philippa Jones in Brussels contributed to this article
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