UpdateCalifornia seeks new role for regulator

26 August 2008 21:45  [Source: ICIS news]

(Updates in paragraphs 6, 8-9)

HOUSTON (ICIS news)--California lawmakers plan to vote as early as this week to give an existing government agency the power to regulate the use of toxic chemicals in the state, sources said on Tuesday.

The state Assembly plans to hold a concurrence vote before it recesses on 31 August on Assembly Bill 1879, which passed the state senate on Monday.

If approved and signed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, as is expected, the bill will empower the California Department of Toxic Substances Control to identify, evaluate and regulate “problem chemicals” from design to disposal.

Scott Ogus, legislative aide for bill sponsor Assemblyman Mike Feuer (Democrat-West Hollywood), said the bill has the support of lawmakers, environmentalists and the chemical industry insiders who see science-based standardisation as preferable to the lawmaker’s piecemeal attempts at regulation.

“They see it as a step forward. It’s better than the alternative of us going chemical by chemical,” he said.

The department currently has a staff of more than 1,000 scientists, engineers and specialicts who oversee toxic waste disposal. The bill would empower it to also regulate how consumer products containing toxic chemicals are designed and manufactured, and give it the authority to ban the use of certain chemicals.

Lawmakers in California, the state with the largest economy in the US, have issued a flurry of bills attempting to restrict chemicals that they believe cause health problems. The state banned phthalates in children’s toys in 2007 and was expected to vote on a proposed ban on bisphenol A (BPA) in children’s food containers by the end of August.

Tim Shestek, director of state affairs for the American Chemistry Council (ACC), said the trade group was officially “neutral” on the bill, but in general agreed with it.

“We’re being supportive of this concept of getting the department more engaged, versus having the legislature making political decisions on chemicals,” Shestek said.

($1 = €0.68)

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By: Ben Lefebvre
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