US chemical officials warn that new controls bill is unworkable

29 July 2010 21:55  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--US industry officials on Thursday warned Congress that a proposed major reform of chemicals control rules could shut down the nation’s process industries, undermine downstream manufacturing and export production and jobs abroad.

Cal Dooley, president of the American Chemistry Council (ACC), told a House subcommittee that the proposed “Toxic Chemicals Safety Act” promotes “unworkable approaches to chemicals management”.

In testimony before the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection, Dooley said that while improvements in the bill have been made since it was first proposed earlier this year, “its foundation is still unworkable [and] there is clearly significant work that remains to be done”.

The subcommittee, part of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, has begun hearing testimony on the bill, HR-5820, that is meant to replace and modernise the 34-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). That statute has not seen substantive changes since it was enacted in 1976.

Dooley cautioned that the chemicals safety standard in the proposed legislation “sets such an impossibly high hurdle for all chemicals in commerce that it would produce technical, bureaucratic and commercial barriers so significant they would be the law’s undoing”.

“For example, the bill requires that ‘aggregate exposure’ to a chemical or mixture meets the ‘reasonable certainty of no harm’ standard,” he said. 

“This means that when a chemical or mixture is listed for a safety determination, the manufacturer carries the burden of showing with reasonable certainty not just that the company’s use of the chemical and any resulting exposures from those uses pose no harm, but that all other aggregated exposures from all other uses of the chemical pose no harm,” Dooley said.

“It is not clear to us how any company could actually do that,” he added.

He also said that the proposed bill has an “overly-broad definition of adverse effects and the amount of upfront data required before a new chemical can be put on the market”. 

The impact of that adverse effects definition, he said, “will effectively discourage the introduction of new chemicals, including new greener chemicals, into commerce in the US”.

He warned that the massive testing and virtually unlimited applications analysis for each new chemical would overwhelm regulators at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), making timely decisions on new substances impossible.

New chemicals, Dooley said, “would essentially be barred from the US market”.

Our customers won’t stop asking for new chemistries because EPA is unable to act,” he said. “The result will be that this innovation moves to other countries with more manageable regulatory regimes - and the production of these new chemistries will move with it.”

“We would export innovation and jobs instead of products,” he said.

He also was critical of HR-5820’s requirements for imported chemicals, noting that the bill “puts the burden of compliance on the retailer and other importers in a manner that is unworkable, unenforceable and not compliant with international trade laws”.

“For example, a company importing products from China may be required to certify that that the Chinese exporter has conducted a full assessment of the aggregate exposure risk of that product in the United States,” Dooley said, saying that was not workable.

The Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA) also raised broad concerns about the TSCA reform effort, charging that the legislation is “overreaching and unworkable”.

Testifying for SOCMA, Beth Bosley, president of Boron Specialties in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, said the safety standard required by the bill inappropriately seeks to apply food and drug testing criteria to industrial chemicals.

“The standards we use to regulate drugs - which are intended to be bioactive - and food additives - which are intended to be eaten - should not be the model for how we regulate industrial chemicals,” she said.

Bosley also targeted the bill’s lack of a federal pre-emption provision, meaning that the 50 US states could separately and independently regulate chemicals in commerce as well.

“Without some kind of pre-emption, a serious potential for disruption of interstate commerce will remain from a growing patchwork of state laws,” she said.

She also cautioned that the bill’s provisions requiring broad disclosure of chemical product identity and components would simply hand US chemistry innovations over to foreign manufacturers who could then undercut domestic US producers with their own technology.

The hearing on Thursday was only one of multiple sessions that are expected before this and other House and Senate panels before final work is completed on TSCA reform legislation, a process that is likely to run through 2011.

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By: Joe Kamalick
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