US specialty chemical makers ask for legislative freeze

09 September 2010 21:55  [Source: ICIS news]

US industry worried Congress will make 11th hour movesWASHINGTON (ICIS)--US specialty chemical makers on Thursday urged the White House and Congress to halt consideration of key legislation until 2011 in order to spare industry new regulatory burdens amid a lingering recession and tough foreign competition.

The Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA) said it would send letters this week to congressional leaders and the heads of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) asking for a legislative freeze until the new year.

“We want them to cease further consideration of existing legislation and to avoid pursuing any new legislation this year that would add to the regulatory burdens facing our small business members,” said SOCMA president Lawrence Sloan during a press conference.

In particular, Sloan said that he would prefer that Congress not take any final action in what remains of this legislative year on reform and renewal of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

He also urged that Congress set aside any effort to make substantive changes to the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) that are due to expire at the end of this month.

Instead, he said SOCMA member firms would much prefer that Congress simply extend the existing site security regulations for several years.

Legislation pending in Congress seeks to toughen some aspects of CFATS, specifically to give DHS enforcement officials authority to impose inherently safer technology (IST) changes on chemical facilities deemed to be at high risk for a possible terrorist attack.

SOCMA and other chemical industry officials fear that an IST mandate would allow regulators to order changes in plants’ feedstocks, processes or even end products, forcing production and related jobs overseas and inhibiting innovation.

Sloan also cited pending legislation to replace and broaden TSCA, the principal US statute for control of chemicals in commerce, warning that those bills “would have a substantial negative impact on our industry as it faces continuing recession and increasing foreign competition”.

He said his trade group was making the appeal to the Obama administration and Congress now because unemployment remains high among the small businesses that make up the bulk of SOCMA’s some 300 specialty and batch producers.

Sloan said that at a time when small businesses in his industry and across the country are losing jobs faster than they can create new positions, “fast action should be taken to encourage SOCMA members and not threaten them with over-arching legislative changes such as TSCA and CFATS”.

He said that regulatory compliance costs are more burdensome for small businesses.

Noting that perhaps substantial changes might be coming in the political make-up of Congress as a result of the 2 November US national elections, Sloan said that “any action by Congress or the administration to pursue final action in these two areas before the end of this year would be political manipulation”.

According to polling, Republicans are expected to make major gains in US House and Senate seats in the election, which is less than eight weeks away.

Bill Allmond, SOCMA vice president for government relations, told reporters that “We are getting intelligence from Capitol Hill on both the Senate and House that there is interest in trying to achieve some additional legislative priorities before the end of the year”.

He said it would be relatively easy for the Democrat majority leadership in Congress to tie significant changes in the chemical security law onto another piece of legislation and get it passed.

There is expectation that after the November elections Congress will convene a “lame duck” legislative session, so named because some sitting members of either house will have lost their re-election bids.

“We don’t want to discount the possibility that either one of these measures could actually reach the president’s desk before the end of this year,” Allmond said.

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By: Joe Kamalick
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