US Congress staffer warns that control issue looms

08 April 2009 19:35  [Source: ICIS news]

BALTIMORE, Maryland (ICIS news)--Fundamental reform of US chemicals control law already is underway in Congress through proxy bills, and industry must be engaged immediately if it is to influence the outcome, a top House staff member said on Wednesday.

Gerald Couri, a senior staff member for minority Republicans on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, told a chemicals conference that the basic terms of legislation to modernise the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) may well be set before a reform bill is even introduced.

Passed in 1976 and not substantively amended since, TSCA is the principal US statute governing chemicals in commerce.

Some in Congress want to reshape the risk-based TSCA regulatory programme in the image of the EU’s precautionary approach in its new system for registration, evaluation and authorisation of chemicals (REACH).

Couri cautioned that Congress already is engaged in laying the framework for TSCA reform though other legislative matters not directly related to TSCA but bearing on it.

He cited the passage last year of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) that, amid wide consumer scare over lead paint on toys made in China, imposed a sweeping ban on lead in any child-related product.

He said that in enacting CPSIA, Congress also banned or severely restricted phthalates “despite the scientific evidence”.

“They also made CPSIA retroactive, so that it applied to all products, including those in inventory,” Couri noted.

He also cited legislation introduced but not passed in 2008 that would require recycling of consumer electronic waste - televisions, computer monitors, radios, cell phones and other end user electronics.

That proposed legislation, which he said is being introduced anew this year, would make manufacturers and providers of such equipment responsible for retrieving those items for proper disposal. It also would dictate use of alternative materials by manufacturers to make disposal easier and more environmentally safe.

Couri also made reference to pending renewal of the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) statute, noting that many in Congress want the new version of that law to give federal officials authority to impose inherently safer technology (IST) requirements on chemical plants deemed at high risk for terrorist attack.

“None of these examples relate directly to congressional efforts to deal with TSCA reform,” Couri said, “but each raises fundamental questions that are generally defined as TSCA domain - manufacturing, processing, distribution in commerce, use and disposal of chemical substances.”

“TSCA groundwork is being laid in these proxy fight bills dealing with new product standards, safety reinforcement, pre-emption and retroactive application,” Couri said.

He said that even though a TSCA reform bill has not yet been introduced and might not be for another year, items of legislation that ultimately will influence the shape of the TSCA bill have already been passed or are now being considered.

“Don’t wait until something official happens, until a TSCA bill is actually introduced,” Couri said.  “You’ll be left on the sidelines.”

Couri spoke on the third and final day of the 2009 Global Chemical Regulations Conference (GlobalChem), which was cosponsored by the American Chemistry Council (ACC) and the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA).

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By: Joe Kamalick
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