Law firm to chems: Don't panic over US safety bill

20 August 2010 21:24  [Source: ICIS news]

AUSTIN (ICIS)--The US chemical industry still has time to defeat an “unworkable” chemical safety bill and salvage the situation with one more friendly to the industry, an executive with a law firm said on Friday.

“It’s certainly time to get worried or anxious, but don’t go to super freak-out mode quite yet,” said Kathleen Roberts, an executive with Bergeson and Campbell and a former senior director with the American Chemistry Council (ACC).

Roberts spoke at the OPSEM2010 conference, held by the National Association of Chemical Distributors (NACD) in Austin, Texas.

Roberts was referring to the “Toxic Chemicals Safety Act” (HR-5820), intended to update the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). TSCA has governed chemicals in US commerce for 34 years.

However, chemical and manufacturing officials have warned that the bill would stifle chemical innovation, compromise trade secrets, force still more US manufacturing and related jobs overseas and create a patchwork of multiple federal and state regulations.

Roberts said the bill was still in its infancy, and that organisations including the NACD were lobbying to defeat it in its present form.

“The NACD is part of a group of trade associations that are working very diligently to explain to Congress that this current draft, even with some minor modifications, is simply unworkable and unamendable,” she said. “They have to start over again.”

In addition to concerns related to sending jobs overseas and stifling innovation, Roberts was concerned that the latest regulation could be overly burdensome to US chemical producers.

For example, the proposed bill would require more knowledge of downstream processes and uses, which was not required under the current regulations.

“That’s a very different label,” Roberts said. “Sometimes you don’t know what a customer does with [a chemical]. It does require a lot more file searching and talking to customers, and it’s higher expectations for the time and energy you’re going to put in.”

Tom Grumbles, a senior consultant with toxicology firm Entrix, largely concurred with Roberts, citing “increasing external pressures” complicating the day-to-day operations of US chemical companies.

Both Grumbles and Roberts cited the mid-term US elections in November as an event that could lead to major changes of the bill, as final work on the House and Senate bills to reform TSCA is not expected until late next year.

The NACD conference ends on Friday.

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By: Ben DuBose
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