US specialty producers urge caution on Congress in reforms

16 June 2010 19:45  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS news)--US specialty and batch chemical producers are meeting with more than two dozen members of Congress to urge caution in regulatory reform, top industry officials said on Wednesday.

Executives of member companies in the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA) were set to press their case with more than 50 congressional officials, including about 25 members of the US House and Senate.

“They will put forth a unified message on industry priorities such as TSCA reform, chemical security, climate change, trade policy and taxes to name a few,” said SOCMA president Lawrence Sloan.

He was referring to pending legislation in Congress to modernise and expand the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which some on Capitol Hill would like to see recast as a US version of the controversial EU system for the registration, evaluation and authorisation of chemicals (REACH).

Many US chemical industry officials, especially those among SOCMA’s specialty and batch producers, fear that a REACH-like US chemicals controls measure would stifle innovation, raise costs and put smaller manufacturers out of business.

SOCMA member firms also worry that pending legislation in Congress would toughen the federal mandate for anti-terrorism security standards at US chemical production, storage and transit sites. 

One bill positioned to replace the existing Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) would give federal officials authority to impose inherently safer technology (IST) mandates on producers, dictating what feedstocks and processes they use and end products. An IST mandate is a particular concern for specialty chemical manufacturers.

Climate change legislation passed by the US House late last year and now pending in the Senate would raise energy costs for manufacturers, again putting specialty chemical producers’ margins at risk.

Sloan said the executives would alert members of Congress that “what seems like a simple or common sense change to an existing statute can mean enormous consequences for someone manufacturing a highly specialized product on a lean budget”.

Bill Allmond, SOCMA vice president for government affairs, said that key meetings on the Hill on Wednesday would include Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Republican-Kentucky) and Senator Susan Collins (Republican-Maine).

“Our discussions with McConnell, for example, will focus on broader chemical manufacturing issues and our priorities for 2011,” Allmond said.

As the ranking Republican on the Senate Homeland Security Committee, Senator Collins has a key role in shaping legislation to update the anti-terrorism site security law.

Her own bill would extend the existing CFATS system for five years to give federal regulators and members of Congress a better sense of how the current law, which went into force in 2007, was working out before major changes would be made.

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