US chemical makers support TSCA reform but urge caution

03 February 2011 18:57  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--US chemical sector officials on Thursday voiced support for reform of federal regulation of chemicals in commerce, but they cautioned that poorly fashioned new rules could stifle innovation and force still more US productive capacity overseas.

The Senate Subcommittee on Toxics and Environmental Health on Thursday heard testimony from industry and environmentalists in the first of what likely will be many congressional hearings this year on how to modernise the 35-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

US petrochemical producers and downstream chemical makers support modernisation of TSCA, which has not been substantially changed since being enacted in 1976.

Cal Dooley, president of the American Chemistry Council (ACC), told the committee that “It is time to update and refresh our 35-year-old chemical management system”.

But Dooley cautioned that careful TSCA reform was critical to the nation’s economy. “We need strong, sound, efficient policies that will not get in the way of the ability of American companies to innovate and create jobs,” he said.

Dooley urged that Congress reform TSCA in a way that would enable US chemicals innovation, provide certainty for business investment and be risk-based and scientifically sound.

“Only by creating a scientifically-disciplined, efficient and focused federal chemicals management system can we ensure a uniform national market, provide American businesses the certainty they need to justify new investment and hiring here rather than in nations such as China and India, and give state governments and consumers confidence,” he said.

Testifying for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Frances Beinecke noted that the lack of a modernised federal controls programme for chemicals in commerce has driven many state governments to implement their own requirements.

She said that in the last eight years, 18 states have enacted more than 70 statutes to ban or limit the use of specific chemicals. Legislators in more than 30 states have introduced new chemical safety legislation in the last month.

Beinecke, president of NRDC, urged the panel to toughen TSCA so that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has more authority to require full disclosure of chemical compounds by industry and to impose restrictions on substances in the interest of public health.

The National Petrochemical & Refiners Association (NPRA) said in written testimony to the committee that a reformed TSCA “must allow EPA and industry to proportionally focus finite time and resources on assessing the potential hazards of chemicals with which consumers most often come into contact”.

“Chemical safety laws must not stifle domestic innovation and cannot raise overly burdensome barriers to, or the cost of, entry into the marketplace,” the association said.

“Raising barriers of entry into commerce would have a negative impact on green chemistry, innovation and the development of new and safer chemicals,” the trade group added.

Senator Frank Lautenberg (Democrat-New Jersey), chairman of the subcommittee, was expected to re-introduce his “Safe Chemicals Act”, which last year became the target of heated industry opposition.

Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the ranking Republican on the panel, said that TSCA reform must be based on risk and science and be cost-effective while protecting proprietary information and innovation.

TSCA reform legislation also will be considered in House committees, and final congressional action on a new chemicals control programme was not expected before the end of this year.

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