US activists press states to force federal change

19 March 2008 16:58  [Source: ICIS news]

Activists work in states to ban chemicalsBALTIMORE, Maryland (ICIS news)--State legislation to ban various chemicals has increased 70% as activist groups use state legislatures to press for national revisions of chemical control laws, a top industry analyst said on Wednesday.


The new focus of environmental groups and other non-governmental organisations (NGOs) is to press for state bans on various products in the hope of forcing major reform of national chemical regulatory law, Roger Bernstein, managing director for state affairs at the American Chemistry Council (ACC), told an industry conference.


“The NGOs’ playbook is to create a patchwork of various chemical bans in a number of states in order to force industry to coalesce around and accept a significant reform of TSCA [the federal Toxic Substances Control Act] so that commerce can go forward,” Bernstein said.


Citing recent successful legislative initiatives at the state level to ban plasticisers in children’s toys, plastic bags in stores and the near-panic over lead paint in imported Chinese toys, Bernstein charged that activist groups are driving “a policy of fear rather than a policy of sound science” at state government levels.


“Our challenge is to make sound science into sound policy,” he said.


Bernstein said that the volume of state-level legislation aimed at banning or restricting specific chemicals or plastics grew 70% in 2007 from 2006 and that the trend of increased state legislative activity continues to grow this year.


In addition to what Bernstein called “bad science” initiatives in state legislatures, the industry is facing product deselection challenges among major retailers, the so-called “Big Box stores” such as Wal-Mart and the Target Stores chain. 


Action by retailers to ban or stop using specific chemical products or derivatives is particularly challenging, he said, because often those decisions are made behind closed doors with no hearings or comment mechanisms like those available in the federal regulatory process.


Bernstein said NGOs and other activists are seeking a major overhaul of TSCA and see state-level legislative activity as leverage to coerce changes in federal law.


He said the industry must become more proactive in anticipating state-level attacks and enlist the broader community of downstream industries dependent on chemicals in combating unscientific legislative challenges.


“We have to play offence,” Bernstein said. “We can’t afford be always reactive, playing defence.”


Bernstein spoke on the concluding day of the annual three-day GlobalChem conference on international chemical regulatory issues. 


The conference was cosponsored by ACC and the Synthetic Organic Chemical Manufacturers Association (SOCMA).


By: Joe Kamalick
+1 713 525 2653

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