19 March 2008 17:29 [Source: ICIS news]
BALTIMORE, Maryland (?xml:namespace>
William Rawson, a Washington, DC-based attorney who specialises in federal and state regulation of chemicals, told an industry conference that activist groups are increasingly focused on state-level legislative initiatives because it is easier for them to get fast statutory action from politicians who ignore scientific evidence.
“Legislation simply requires votes, not science,” Rawson told some 400 industry executives attending the annual GlobalChem regulatory conference. “Seeking legislative initiatives at the state level also avoids the risk assessment paradigm” that underlies federal regulatory rulemaking, he said.
At many state legislatures, he said, “There are no substantive criteria or procedural safeguards as there are in federal rulemaking, and activists can shop for a favourable state forum - such as California - and then leverage success in that one state to gain similar legislation in other states”.
He said that environmental activist groups frequently argue to state legislators that federal chemical regulatory controls are inadequate, that industry’s product stewardship is insufficient and that chemical products such as phthalates pose serious health risks - despite abundant government and private sector scientific evidence to the contrary.
Rawson warned that when a specific chemical product is banned, despite scientific evidence - such as California’s recent ban of phthalates in children’s toys - “it doesn’t matter that it is just one product or that science supported our view, the result is an erosion of public confidence in the safety of products generally, in the federal regulatory scheme and in industry’s product stewardship”.
He urged industry officials to become proactive in anticipating legislative attacks at state and local levels by preparing scientific resources and credible third-party spokespersons, engaging downstream industries and being willing to respond publicly.
He said the increasing trend of state and local legislative attacks on chemicals and plastics “will continue as long as it works”.
“This must be viewed not as a series of product-specific attacks, but as an attack on federal [regulatory] programmes generally and industry in general,” he said. “If current product targets are successfully banned, you can expect the trend to accelerate and turn to new targets.”
Rawson spoke on the final day of the three-day annual GlobalChem conference on international chemical regulations. The conference was cosponsored by the American Chemistry Council (ACC) and the Synthetic Organic Chemical Manufacturers Association (SOCMA).
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