UpdateUS chems concerned by new controls legislation

15 April 2010 20:40  [Source: ICIS news]

Congress introduces controls bill(adds updates throughout)

WASHINGTON (ICIS news)--US chemical manufacturers on Thursday voiced concern about proposed federal legislation to control chemicals in commerce, and environmental groups said the new regulatory plan falls short of what is needed.

Chemical producers, downstream consuming industries and environmentalists were quick to react on Thursday after Senator Frank Lautenberg (Democrat-New Jersey) formally introduced his long-anticipated bill to replace and reform the 34-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

Lautenberg’s bill, the “Safe Chemicals Act of 2010”, would require health and safety testing by producers of all chemicals now in commerce and would demand demonstrated safety for all new substances before they are introduced to markets.

Although the new legislation would give broad new regulatory authority for chemicals control to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Lautenberg’s measure maintained the risk-based approach that underlies TSCA.

It also would provide public access to chemical safety information provided to EPA by producers and to data about agency decisions on specific chemicals.

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) said it was encouraged that Lautenberg’s bill reflects some of the TSCA reform goals that the council issued last year, including the risk-based approach to chemicals reviews.

“However, we are concerned that the bill’s proposed decision-making standard may be legally and technically impossible to meet,” said ACC President Cal Dooley.

Dooley also expressed concern that the Lautenberg measure “could hamper innovation in new products, processes and technologies”.

“In addition, the bill undermines business certainty by allowing states to adopt their own regulations” concerning chemicals in commerce, he said, leaving “a lack of regulatory uniformity for chemicals and the products that use them”.

The National Petrochemical & Refiners Association (NPRA) joined 15 other chemical producer groups or downstream consumer industries in welcoming Lautenberg’s legislative initiative, saying that it is time to modernise TSCA.

The association also hailed the bill’s risk-based approach to prioritising chemicals for safety review and testing, but NPRA shared ACC’s concern that “pre-emption provisions in this proposal will allow states to adopt regulations that are not uniform”.

NPRA also raised concern about the bill’s standards for EPA’s decision-making process in ruling whether existing or new chemicals are safe for commerce and consumers.

The American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC), representing 30,000 businesses that produce or market products that incorporate chemicals and resins, also welcomed the TSCA reform legislation.

“It will have important benefits for us as downstream users of chemicals through greater information and innovation,” said Jeffrey Hollender, cofounder of Seventh Generation, a manufacturer of environmentally friendly household products and an ASBC member company.

The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and a coalition of other environmental and public health groups also hailed the introduction of Lautenberg’s bill, saying that it “includes a number of essential reforms that would substantially improve public health protections”.

But the coalition Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families (SCHF) said the Safe Chemicals Act did not go far enough in some respects.

For example, the group said Lautenberg’s bill does not provide clear authority for EPA “to immediately restrict production and use of the most dangerous chemicals”.

EDF senior scientist Richard Denison said his group would seek “several needed improvements in the bill” as it goes through hearings in Congress.

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