US chemical leaders say new control bill still burdensome

14 April 2011 22:30  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--Senator Frank Lautenberg (Democrat-New Jersey) on Thursday introduced a revised bill to reform the principal US law for regulating chemicals in commerce, but industry leaders said the measure still threatens US innovation and jobs.

Lautenberg, who had introduced a similar bill last year to reform and modernise the 35-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), said that he had taken industry’s comments from last year into account in revising his bill.

Based on hearing testimony and private meetings with industry officials and other stakeholders last year, Lautenberg said he had made improvements in the measure.

But Cal Dooley, president of the American Chemistry Council (ACC), said that while he welcomed some changes in the new bill compared with last year’s version, “it appears that many of our concerns have not been addressed in this new version”.

“The bill introduced today could put American innovation and jobs at risk,” Dooley said.

Charles Drevna, president of the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association (NPRA), said that he appreciated Lautenberg’s efforts to redraw his 2010 bill to better reflect input from chemical sector officials and other stakeholders.

Drevna acknowledged that the revised “Safe Chemicals Act” reflected “Lautenberg’s efforts to exclude chemical mixtures from certain requirements and to incorporate some risk-based parameters into the proposed regulatory process”.

According to the bill summary provided by Lautenberg, the revised measure would establish risk-based prioritisation categories so that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) could focus its regulatory resources on the highest-risk chemicals first.

In Lautenberg’s 2010 version, environmental, health and safety testing would have been required immediately across the board on all chemicals in commerce, regardless of risk exposure - an approach that producers said would pose an insurmountable task for both industry and the EPA.

Despite those changes, however, Drevna said that Lautenberg’s 2011 draft bill “would give EPA unprecedented authority over the American economy, allowing the agency to make decisions on what materials can and cannot be used in manufacturing without requiring scientific justification for those decisions”.

NPRA also criticised the new bill for giving the EPA even greater authority to force costly animal testing of all chemicals, “regardless of the likelihood or extent of potential human exposure”.

Both Dooley and Drevna reaffirmed their groups’ support for modernisation of TSCA and said they were ready to work with Lautenberg and others in Congress to update the chemical controls statute while enabling US chemical innovation and preserving jobs.

“Health and environmental protection need not - and should not - come at the expense of American Jobs and the economy,” Drevna said.

“If enacted in its current form, Senator Lautenberg’s bill threatens to further damage America’s already fragile manufacturing base,” he added.

The introduction of Lautenberg’s anticipated Safe Chemicals Act was just the beginning of a long and complex legislative process that many in industry expect could two years or more to reach final resolution.

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

By: Joe Kamalick
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