INSIDE VIEW '11: Education of new Congress goal of NPRA

30 December 2010 21:07  [Source: ICIS news]

By Charles Drevna
NPRA, the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association

Editor’s note: US chemical industry association leaders were given the opportunity to express their views on the challenges and opportunities for 2011.

A top priority for NPRA, the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association, in the months ahead will be educating new members of Congress about the importance of our member companies to the American economy and the vital role their products play in all Americans’ lives.

Nearly a quarter of the combined membership of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives are newly-elected members, some of whom may be unfamiliar with our member companies and the transportation fuels and petrochemicals they produce.

NPRA’s members are high-tech American companies that manufacture the fuels needed to keep our vehicles moving and our homes warm. They manufacture the petrochemicals that are the basic foundation of thousands of products – from pharmaceuticals and medical supplies, to safety equipment and automobile components, to electronics, furniture, home building materials, and countless more – that make our daily lives safer, healthier, more productive and efficient.

Our members supply proven, reliable and affordable products that strengthen our nation’s economic and national security. They also provide jobs directly and indirectly for more than 2 million Americans. And as the bedrock of our nation’s manufacturing base, they enable other US manufacturers to better compete in the global marketplace, further enhancing our nation’s economic development. 

It’s important that our elected officials understand who we are and what our members do. As a result, our educational effort will be a key component of NPRA’s ongoing campaign to work constructively with our nation’s lawmakers toward shaping policies that keep America’s economy strong, its environment clean, and its citizens secure.

Our nation’s manufacturers continue to face a number of challenges in the form of misguided, overreaching, highly costly efforts to control greenhouse gas emissions. The good news is that even many of the staunchest supporters of failed cap-and-trade legislation concede that a cap-and-trade bill will almost certainly not win passage during the incoming 112th Congress.

Unfortunately, the Environmental Protection Agency has chosen to move forward with the regulation of greenhouse gases from stationary sources under the Clean Air Act, something never intended by Congress when it enacted the law. The regulations go into effect January 2 for new or modified facilities that emit more than 75,000 tons of greenhouse gases per year, followed in July with regulation of existing sources whose annual emissions exceed 100,000 tons and eventually encompassing smaller facilities in 2012.

If EPA’s greenhouse gas regulations proceed unchecked, they will raise the cost of energy and other products for American families, drain billions of dollars from our nation’s economy, and wipe out millions of American jobs. Our manufacturing jobs and the accompanying economic activity will simply move overseas to countries with less stringent environmental regulations, likely resulting, somewhat perversely, in an overall increase of global greenhouse gas emissions.

A federal appeals court denied several motions, including one filed by NPRA and others, to stay EPA’s greenhouse gas rules in December. Legal challenges to the regulations continue, however, and there are also bipartisan legislative efforts being undertaken in Congress to delay the regulations or to scrap them entirely.

EPA recently requested delays of two other regulatory measures significant to refiners and petrochemical manufacturers. The agency asked a federal court in December for a 15-month extension to issue the Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) rules for industrial boilers. There are still unresolved questions regarding how natural gas usage at petrochemical facilities will be treated under the boiler MACT rules, and the delay will allow time for those uncertainties to be addressed.

EPA also announced in December that the agency was again delaying its decision on tightening limits for ground-level ozone. EPA issued a proposal in January 2009 to tighten the national ambient air quality standard (NAAQS) for ozone from its current level of 75 parts per billion to between 60 and 70 parts per billion, but has postponed a final decision several times.

The agency currently plans to make its final ozone NAAQS determination in July. A reduction from the current standard to one within EPA’s proposed range will put large portions of the United States in violation of our nation’s clean air laws literally overnight. This will have severe repercussions on American manufacturers and, ultimately, consumers.

NPRA members continue to work with the Department of Homeland Security towards full implementation of the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program, and are engaged in ensuring that the inspection process runs smoothly. Congress has extended CFATS, which was set to expire in October 2010, through October 2011.

NPRA supports making the current CFATS program permanent, without modifications to include an “Inherently Safer Technology” (IST) provision. IST is a concept created by the chemical industry and developed by professional chemical engineers, not a technique that can be imposed by mandate. Legislative proposals to require IST are simply thinly veiled, politically motivated attempts to force product substitution under the false pretense of security.

While proposals to overhaul the Toxic Substances Control Act were debated in both chambers of Congress in 2010, no legislation was finally considered for passage into law. NPRA remains fully supportive of responsible modernization of our nation’s chemicals risk management policy. The proposals put forward during the 111th Congress, however, were not effective or reasoned approaches toward updating TSCA.

Although it’s unclear whether Congress will take up legislation in 2011, members of both chambers have indicated they are willing to work with industry stakeholders as they consider efforts to modernize TSCA.

European nations are still in the process of implementing the Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals (REACH) program. More than 24,000 registration dossiers were submitted during the first round of registrations, which ended Nov. 30.

The months ahead will provide a clearer indication of REACH’s viability, but European chemical manufacturers continue to express concerns about the program. NPRA views REACH to be a costly, unwieldy and unnecessary social experiment, and we will continue our efforts to ensure that a REACH-like approach does not become the basis for chemicals policy modernization in the United States.

As America looks forward to what we hope will be a speedy, full economic recovery in the months and years ahead, our nation’s policymakers must remain mindful of creating ill-conceived laws and regulations that stifle or reverse our economic growth.

Our goal is to ensure that policymakers are armed with the information they need to make decisions that will move us forward. In so doing, NPRA will continue to support sound, responsible energy and environmental policies that allow our members to manufacture the products vital to our economy and our way of life.

By: Staff Reporter
+44 20 8652 3214

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