US state activism increasing despite funding declines

08 April 2009 22:27  [Source: ICIS news]

BALTIMORE, Maryland (ICIS news)--State-level attacks on chemicals and related products are increasing despite a funding shortfall for activist groups and the election of an aggressively environmental federal government, industry authorities said on Wednesday.

Mark Biel, executive director of the Chemical Industry Council of Illinois (CICI), told a chemicals sector conference that the inauguration of President Barack Obama and the expanded majority for environmentalist Democrats in Congress have done nothing to diminish state and local campaigns against chemicals and related products.

“It used to be, during the Bush years, that when activist groups would testify in the Illinois legislature in favour of banning some product or chemical, they would say that the state must act ‘because the Bush administration isn’t doing anything’,” Biel said.

“So it would be logical to assume that with President Obama and the new Congress both aggressively pursuing climate and other environmental issues, there would be less need or interest on the local level,” he said.

“But that is not the case,” he said, adding: “In the end, it’s all about the money.”

Speaking at the 2009 Global Chemical Regulations Conference (GlobalChem), Biel said that foundations and trusts that fund environmental activists have seen their revenues drop by as much as 40% in the recession and are far more selective with their money.

“As a consequence, the activist groups are all the more eager to demonstrate that they are worth the investment,” Biel said. “If you can’t move legislation, then you’re less likely to get funding these days.”

Josh Young, director of state affairs for the American Chemistry Council (ACC), told industry executives at the conference that the election of Obama does provide chemical companies the argument that federal policymakers are taking action and that multiple state-level legislative initiatives are unwarranted.

“We have to do a better job of instilling public confidence in the federal safety net,” Young said.

Young also said that the “relentless and comprehensive attacks” on chemicals that he described at state and local levels can present a major opportunity for producers to demonstrate the essential role that chemical products play in state legislative initiatives to make buildings more “green” and to increase energy efficiency.

Biel and Young spoke on the final day of the three-day GlobalChem conference, which was sponsored by the ACC and the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA).

This year’s GlobalChem conference drew some 275 participants, according to SOCMA officials, a marginal decline from last year’s attendance of slightly more than 300. The decline was attributed to the US recession and related corporate restrictions on travel budgets.

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By: Joe Kamalick
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