Environmentalists see high hopes for new Congress

04 November 2008 19:30  [Source: ICIS news]

A lot of environmental work expected from new US CongressWASHINGTON (ICIS news)--Environmental officials said on Tuesday they expect major legislative victories in the new Congress on climate control, chemical plant security, an EU-like chemicals controls bill and a new pollution tax on chemical producers.

 

As US citizens went to the polls on Tuesday to elect what is expected to be a much stronger Democrat majority in both the US House and Senate, environmental activists are already working up wish lists for key legislation they expect to get through the 111th Congress that will convene in January.

 

Those expectations are even more optimistic if, as election-day polling suggests, Illinois Democrat Senator Barack Obama wins the White House as the nation’s 44th president.

 

“The big thing we’re looking for in the next Congress is passage of a cap-and-trade bill,” said Dan Cronin, spokesman for the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).

 

“This is the biggest environmental issue for next year, cap-and-trade, because it affects practically every other environmental concern,” he said.

 

“It will be brought up early in the 111th Congress, and there is growing momentum for it across the country, more bipartisan support, and we expect Congress will focus on cap-and-trade right off the bat in January,” Cronin said.

 

Kate Smolski, senior legislative coordinator for the US Greenpeace global warming campaign, agreed that a cap-and-trade system is all but certain from the next Congress, especially if Obama is president.

 

Like EDF, Greenpeace is pushing for a bill out of the 111th Congress that will reduce US emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) to 80% of 1990 levels by 2050.

 

“This is what global warming science tells us is the minimum necessary to reverse the effects of the warming,” she said.

 

Smolski and Cronin both noted that Obama has often voiced support for an 80% reduction programme on the campaign trail.

 

In addition to the virtual certainty of some sort of cap-and-trade mandate, the environmental community expects major wins in Congress on other chemicals-related issues.

 

Rick Hind, legislative director for the national toxics campaign at Greenpeace in Washington, said that “certainly a top priority is chemical-plant site security, and our goal there is to ensure that inherently safer technology [IST] is a requirement more broadly through the chemical industry”.

 

The existing US antiterrorism chemical plant security law, the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS), expires at the end of 2009 and must be renewed by the next Congress.

 

Greenpeace and other environmental groups want a new site-security law to give federal officials authority to order changes in chemical plant operations, products or processes to make them inherently safer and less vulnerable to off-site damages due to a terrorist attack.

 

A draft bill already pending in Congress and likely to be acted on next year would require inherently safer technology requirements for plant sites deemed at highest risk for terrorist attack - about 200-300 US facilities.

 

But Hind said Greenpeace wants to see the IST mandate apply to any chemical facility that puts 1,000 or more local residents at risk of attack consequences, “which we think would include about 3,500 sites in the US”.

 

Hind said Greenpeace also has high hopes for legislation to expand and improve the principal US chemicals control law, the 30-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

 

“But, in our view, we want the overhaul of TSCA to encompass a better version of Reach,” Hind said, referring to the EU’s programme for the registration, evaluation and authorisation of chemicals (Reach).

 

Fundamental to a renewal or replacement of TSCA, Hind said, is the use of Reach’s precautionary principle approach rather than the risk-based foundation that underlies the existing TSCA rules.

 

In addition, he said Greenpeace will push for and expect the 111th Congress to enact a renewal of the Superfund law’s special tax on chemical producers to fund clean-up projects at polluted sites around the country.

 

“We’re optimistic about getting these things done with the new Congress, especially if Obama is in the White House,” Hind said.

 

“We need government in the form of a social contract for safety and security and environmental concerns that is truly protective and not something that is to be negotiated with the regulated industry,” Hind said.

 

“This is no time for half-measures and loopholes,” he said.

 

To discuss issues facing the chemical industry go to ICIS connect


By: Joe Kamalick
+1 713 525 2653



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