INSIDE VIEW ’10: For America’s Chemical Industry - Now Is the Time

30 December 2009 22:00  [Source: ICIS news]

By Cal Dooley
President and CEO
American Chemistry Council

Editor’s note: US chemical industry association leaders were given the opportunity to express their views on the challenges and opportunities for 2010.

"Never leave that till tomorrow which you can do today." 
Benjamin Franklin

 

WASHINGTON (ICIS news)--It is time for Congress and the Administration to heed Ben Franklin and get to work.

With the next cycle of Congressional elections less than a year away, ACC (American Chemistry Council) is working hard to win long-delayed legislation affecting energy policy and climate change, chemical management, security, rail competition and taxes.

Our message is clear - the chemical industry and the nation need policies that create jobs and sharpen America’s competitive edge. 

“It’s The Jobs, Genius!”

Congress and the Administration finally seem to realise the nation’s top priority is restoring jobs and jump-starting the economy.

Let me be blunt here - this cannot happen without a strong chemical industry. Our sector employs 850,000 Americans, and each chemical industry job generates 5.5 jobs in related industries - a total of 4.6m US jobs.

Ninety-six percent of all manufactured goods in the US are touched by chemistry. Chemical industry jobs pay well, averaging $77,879 (€54,515) per worker - 43% higher than the average wage for manufacturing and 72% higher than the average wage for all industries.

However, since the start of the recession in December, 2007, America’s chemical industry employment has fallen by 6.7% - some 57,400 jobs. Over the past decade, throughout the US economy, more than 900,000 jobs evaporated with declining chemical industry activity.

The US share of world chemical production declined to 18.6% in 2008, a 30% decline from only a decade earlier.

The good news is that policy makers in Washington and at the state and local levels now seek policies that promote jobs. And we are educating them about the crucial economic contribution made by the business of chemistry.

The bad news - the clock is ticking.  That’s why ACC calls on Congress to finish its job so that America’s chemical sector can continue to innovate, grow and generate new, and high-paying, jobs.

Public Policy Advocacy - New Strategy, Sharper Focus

For 2010, ACC continues to strategically reposition the industry as a vital part of the solution to national problems, sharpening our focus on top policy priorities, expanding our membership base and boosting member company participation. The sustainable future envisioned by all Americans can only be achieved through the innovative products of chemistry that reduce the need for energy, provide smart, alternative technologies and promote job growth.

To drive this message home, ACC’s new strategy combines enhanced civic engagement by our members and their employees with a broader membership base that includes more small and medium-sized companies. To help these companies join the team, ACC will defer payment of dues by new small companies for three years, allowing them to invest in their commitment to Responsible Care®, our industry-leading programme of management practices in the environment, health, safety, security and product stewardship.

In addition, we will invite value chain companies to become affiliate members and reinforce member engagement to enhance political relationships with key members of Congress in their states and districts, to ensure our voice is heard even stronger.

So Much To Do; So Little Time

ACC’s 2010 agenda shows how much remains to be done in what likely will be an election-shortened Congressional year:

Energy Policy & Climate Change: The threat of EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) regulation of greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources also will be a major focus for ACC. Congress needs to be in the driver’s seat on climate policy; postponing EPA’s (Environmental Protection Agency's) stationary source permitting programmes will ensure that new investment in energy-efficient technologies is not paralysed, and will promote additional job creation.

We are also working to ensure that a national climate policy protects jobs in the US chemical industry by ensuring that the additional costs the industry will incur due to climate controls are addressed efficiently and effectively.

ACC continues to promote a comprehensive energy bill that addresses efficiency, diversity in fuel supply and full use of our abundant energy resources. The industry supports sustainable outcomes in model commercial and residential building codes in the states and incentives for projects to exceed these codes, and our model code has been adopted in a number of states.

In addition, our groundbreaking Life Cycle Analysis study has been a major point in advocacy, as it reaffirms that our industry is a key solutions provider as we save two units of green house gas emissions for each one that we emit.

Chemical Management: Last year, ACC staked out a crucial position in favor of Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) modernisation, setting a foundation for cooperation and winning respect from regulators, legislators and advocacy groups. We issued credible, realistic principles for updating TSCA and were gratified when EPA’s own principles closely mirrored ours.

ACC and member companies have educated members of Congress and Administration officials on our positions on TSCA modernisation, and continue to call for a robust stakeholder dialogue to seek consensus around as many issues as possible prior to Congressional action.

We are also working with several “non-traditional” allies to advance our thinking about TSCA modernisation.We joined representatives of the animal protection community in visits to Congressional offices, and are working closely with a number of environmental groups, about modifying TSCA in ways that support the use of existing data and information.

And, on the federal regulatory front, ACC is working closely with EPA staff to ensure our industry has a strong say in the steps that will be taken, and that the critical nature of the products that we make will be considered before action is taken.

Security: Having led the charge for national chemical security regulations, ACC and our member companies continue to work with Congress and the administration to safeguard America's chemical facilities. The House of Representatives approved legislation reauthorising the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) in 2009, but Senate consideration is not expected until later this year.

As passed, the House bill makes the CFATS programme permanent while making some additional improvements. However, the bill expands the range of facilities covered and imposes new requirements on both the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and regulated facilities.

Of greatest concern to ACC members is the authority granted to DHS to require inherently safer technology (IST). We will continue to work in the Senate to ensure that DHS is not allowed to mandate IST.

Rail Competition: Many ACC member companies rely on the railroads to provide reliable and competitive service to deliver their products. Unfortunately, member companies also face skyrocketing rail transportation costs and poor service due to outdated and broken freight rail policies that fail to promote access to competitive rail service.

Last year’s approval of anti-trust legislation by committees in both houses of Congress represents a new high water mark for the rail reform effort.

But, the end of the line is not yet in sight. As 2010 unfolds we expect to see action on an additional measure that strengthens the role of the Surface Transportation Board in promoting competition, and we are working hard to win legislation that truly restores competition to the freight rail system.

Taxes: Congress is considering specific tax increases that can negatively affect ACC member companies including: 1) repeal of the LIFO (Last In, First Out) method of inventory accounting; 2) re-imposition of Superfund taxes; and, 3) restructuring of rules for U.S. tax on foreign earnings.

Business taxes are seen as possible “pay-fors” in a variety of budget and policy debates. For instance, the healthcare bill passed by the House in 2009 repealed an interest allocation method that increases foreign tax credits, and codified the test employed by courts to determine whether business transactions were tax-motivated. ACC is actively working to counter these proposals, and is further developing the tools and data showing the significant economic impact of such policies on our industry’s competitiveness.

State Affairs: Chemical management remains a major focus, as states wrestled with product bans, toxic use reduction, new regulatory schemes and more. ACC advocacy achieved positive outcomes on 130 chemical and 250 plastic product bills.  In addition, we helped drive enactment of more than a dozen bills creating building energy codes, and plastic bag recycling programmes.

With so much unfinished business and such high stakes, ACC, our members and the entire value chain must show Washington that American chemistry means business, and jobs, across the nation. Successful advocacy requires strong partnerships, and we are accelerating our outreach to engage our members, stakeholders and industry friends in states that are key to our issues.

We have done the policy right, and now we need to do the advocacy right. With so much unfinished business, the clock is ticking. And ACC and our members continue to make it clear to Congress that the snooze button is no longer an option.

($1 = €0.70)

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