US chemical industry officials slam TSCA reform bill

17 November 2011 20:05  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--US chemical industry officials on Thursday warned that a proposed bill to modernise federal rules governing chemicals in commerce is unworkable and would drive still more US manufacturing to foreign shores.

In testimony before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, American Chemistry Council (ACC) president Cal Dooley said that while his trade group welcomes reform of federal chemical controls, “unfortunately, today we are discussing a bill that ... we consider unworkable”.

The Senate hearing was the first full session of public testimony this year about S-847, the “Safe Chemicals Act of 2011”.

Sponsored by Senator Frank Lautenberg (Democrat-New Jersey), the bill is designed to update and modernise the 35-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which has not been amended in any significant way since being enacted in 1976.

Lautenberg had introduced his bill in 2010, but it never advanced.  Now as then, US chemicals sector officials have voiced broad opposition to the bill.

Lawrence Sloan, president of the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA), told the committee that “there is broad stakeholder agreement that TSCA needs to be modernised, but the Safe Chemicals Act is not workable”.

Sloan said that the bill “fails to adequately consider its impact on innovation or balance chemicals safety with continued manufacturing in the US” and that domestic production of key chemicals could be shifted to developing countries as a result.

Dooley said that the bill’s safety standard requiring that manufacturers provide “reasonable certainty of no harm ... from aggregate exposure” for all chemicals “would be virtually impossible to meet”.

“If the Environmental Protection Agency [EPA] were required by TSCA to consider the aggregate exposures to a substance from every industrial, commercial and consumer product use of a chemical substance, regulatory paralysis would ensue,” Dooley said.

Dooley also was critical of S-847’s “significant new data requirements before new chemicals could come to market” along with extended safety review periods for the EPA that would keep new product developments in an uncertain limbo.

He said the bill also would compromise protection for confidential business information.

“An ill-conceived regulatory system, like that which would be created by S-847, would undermine America’s ability to develop and produce these transformational technologies and would put jobs of today and of tomorrow at risk,” Dooley concluded.

Speaking for a broad coalition of environmental groups, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) senior scientist Richard Denison said that S-847 “strikes the right balance”.

“It fully protects human health and the environment, including the most vulnerable among us, while also encouraging and rewarding innovation toward safer chemicals and products,” he said.

Denison disagreed with Dooley on the bill’s provisions for proprietary data, arguing that Lautenberg’s measure would protect “legitimate confidential business information”.

Despite widespread support among both business interests and environmentalists for legislation to update and modernise TSCA, neither Lautenberg’s bill nor any other reform measure is expected to get much traction in Congress this year or even in 2012.

Congress is not expected to take up broad consideration of such a complex measure this year or next – in part because the federal legislature is focused on larger issues but also because few members of Congress want to take a stand on such controversial legislation during an election year.

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

By: Joe Kamalick
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