US Congress is not likely to reform TSCA before 2013

21 March 2011 20:58  [Source: ICIS news]

BALTIMORE, Maryland (ICIS)--Congress is not likely to complete work this year or next on a major overhaul of the principal federal regulations governing chemicals in commerce, a top industry official said on Monday.

Lawrence Sloan, president of the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA) said that major congressional work to renew the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) probably would be delayed to 2013 because of many larger issues before Congress and wide disagreement about how to reform the 35-year-old statute and regulations.

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

Chemical manufacturers and many of their downstream consumer industries believe that TSCA reform is needed, and they would prefer to have it done sooner rather than later in order to establish some level of regulatory certainty for a decade or longer.

Sloan said that while there was agreement among environmentalists, chemical sector officials and many in Congress that TSCA reform is needed and past due, getting consensus on how to reform and modernise the regulatory system was much more difficult.

“There are two camps in Congress and among interest groups on this, and the two sides are far, far apart,” Sloan said.

On one side, chemical industry and other business interests want reform to improve but continue the existing TSCA’s underlying regulatory approach of risk-based, scientific principles. 

Many in the environmental and green communities want Congress to reshape TSCA along the lines of the EU’s controversial programme for the registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of chemicals (REACH), which is built on the precautionary principle and is broadly opposed by the US chemicals sector.

Speaking on the sidelines of the annual GlobalChem regulatory conference, Sloan said that vast differences between the two camps mean it was unlikely that the gap could be bridged anytime this year.

In addition, he noted that Congress was wrestling with so many major issues - not least of which trying to come to agreement on funding the federal government for this fiscal year (which ends in September) and FY2012 - that there appeared to be little legislative time left over to drill down into the many complex issues of TSCA reform.

If Congress cannot come to common ground on TSCA reform this year, it was even less likely to complete overhaul of the complex regulatory system in 2012, a US election year. 

Traditionally, members of Congress have been reluctant to act on controversial issues in an election year for fear of losing votes in the November balloting.

“There are so many issues that cloud the horizon, that I don’t see TSCA reform happening before the next election,” Sloan said.

With TSCA reform perhaps on the shelf for this year and next, the outcome of the November 2012 elections could have major impact on which reform camp will wield the most power in Congress in 2013-2014.

GlobalChem is cosponsored by (SOCMA) and the American Chemistry Council (ACC). The conference runs through Wednesday.

Paul Hodges studies key influencers shaping the chemical industry in Chemicals and the Economy

By: Joe Kamalick
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