US chemical leader sees progress with new Congress

17 November 2010 19:58  [Source: ICIS news]

Joint session of US CongressWASHINGTON (ICIS)--The US chemicals industry has an opportunity to make major progress on key regulatory and energy issues with the new 112th Congress that will convene in January, a leading sector official said on Wednesday.

Cal Dooley, president of the American Chemistry Council (ACC), told a press conference that the 2 November elections that gave Republicans majority control of the House and swept more Republicans into the Senate “will have some bearing on how we continue to advance our industry’s priorities”.

Dooley said that his trade group will work with the new Congress to advance safety and craft other policies “that will allow the chemicals industry to remain at the forefront of developing technology, advancing our economy and ensuring that we maintain jobs and our industry’s international competitiveness”.

Toward that end, he said, the ACC and its member firms are committed to getting reform and modernisation of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the principal US statutory programme for regulation of chemicals in commerce.

That 34-year-old statute has not been substantially revised since its enactment in 1976. Legislation proposed by Democrats in the US House and Senate last year came under heavy chemical industry criticism as being draconian.

“There has been speculation that with significant Republican gains in the House, Senate and in state legislatures, that the ACC will back away from its commitment to modernise TSCA,” Dooley said.

“But we remain committed to having TSCA reform as one of our highest priorities,” he said.

He termed TSCA reform legislation sponsored by Democrats in the House and Senate as “extreme” and warned that it “would have stifled the ability of the US chemicals industry and industries that use our products to be competitive internationally”.

Dooley indicated that Democrats in Congress and environmental groups had been unwilling over the past year to meet industry concerns halfway on TSCA reform.

“We were disappointed that we didn’t have an opportunity to have a constructive engagement to move that legislation to some middle ground,” he said, adding that environmental groups “were not willing to make accommodations”.

“We hope in the next Congress that we can create a different dynamic, engage the NGOs [environmental groups], Republican leaders and work with Democrats who are committed to advancing TSCA reform that embodies our principles and those of the EPA to ensure the safety of chemicals in commerce,” Dooley said.

Dooley, a former seven-term Democrat member of the House, also said that the council supports a proposal by Senator Jay Rockefeller (Democrat-West Virginia) to suspend for two years the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) plans to begin on 2 January regulating and limiting emissions of greenhouse gases by industrial facilities.

He said EPA’s controversial plan to begin restricting carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases “would have significant economic consequences on the chemicals sector, industry in general and the nation’s economy”.

“It is appropriate to delay EPA’s action in order to give Congress more time to act on climate change matters,” he said.

Republicans set to take control of the House in January have promised to deny funding to EPA for its greenhouse gases plans if Rockefeller’s bill or other legislative steps to block the EPA should fail.

Dooley also voiced concern about EPA’s plans to impose much more strict emissions controls on industrial boilers. The agency’s plan to impose “maximum achievable control technologies” (MACT) requirements on industrial boilers used for power, heat or processes is known as the Boiler MACT - and is widely opposed by industry.

“As proposed, the Boiler MACT is so onerous as to impose some $20bn [€14.8bn] in new capital costs on industry overall, and in the chemicals sector almost a $4bn hit,” Dooley said.

He said the new Congress also would offer “an opportunity to get bipartisan support for a more comprehensive energy proposal”, including measures to “fully develop our domestic energy, offshore and onshore, along with alternative and renewable energy sources”.

Many in the US energy sector and among process industries and other manufacturing sectors have accused the Obama administration of maintaining a de facto ban on offshore drilling in US waters of the Gulf of Mexico and elsewhere.

But he said that any effort to impose a cap-and-trade emissions mandate as part of an energy bill “is not likely in the next Congress”.

In addition, he expressed hopes that in the new Congress - or even the remaining weeks of the current 111th Congress - legislators will extend the existing Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) largely as-is for several years if not permanently.

He indicated that there was little prospect for major changes to the four-year-old CFATS programme, and that efforts by some in Congress to impose a federal mandate for inherently safer technology (IST) as a site-security measure would not come to fruition.

($1 = €0.74)

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By: Joe Kamalick
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