US chems, House leaders ask for reporting rule delay

17 January 2012 20:27  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--US chemical industry officials on Tuesday joined with US House leaders in asking the Obama administration to delay a new chemicals data reporting rule, arguing that regulators have not fully explained the requirement.

Industry officials voiced support for an appeal made last Friday by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (Republican-Michigan) for a lengthy delay for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) new chemical data reporting (CDR) rule.

Upton was joined in the letter to the EPA by Congressman John Shimkus (Republican-Illinois), who chairs the Energy Committee’s subpanel on environment and the economy.

That new CDR rule is to go into force in a couple of weeks on 1 February, but Upton, others in Congress and many in the chemicals and other industries charge that the requirement is so vague and confusing that it would be unreasonable for the EPA to expect compliance.

In the CDR rule – previously known as the inventory update reporting (IUR) requirement – EPA imposes more strict capture and control standards and sharply reduces the amount of product data that chemical manufacturers may withhold from disclosure as critical business information.

The new rule, which falls under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), also “requires more frequent reporting of critical information on chemicals and requires the submission of new and updated information relating to potential chemical exposures, current production volume, manufacturing site-related data, and processing and use-related data for a larger number of chemicals”, as detailed by the EPA.

The new chemical data reporting rule was initially proposed in August 2010 with a compliance start date in June 2011, but there was an outcry from industry and members of Congress and the EPA revised the requirement and put implementation back to February this year.

Industry argued that the new requirement was too sweeping, reduced protection for proprietary information and offered little guidance on key definitions and compliance.

In his letter to EPA administrator Lisa Jackson, Upton charged that the agency has yet to provide clear instructions and guidance on a number of reporting aspects of the CDR.

He said that in a compliance conference the EPA held with regulated industries in mid-November last year, “little was provided in the way of helpful answers or guidance from EPA personnel”.

Although industry officials posed many questions to the EPA during the conference, Upton said that the agency has so far failed to respond adequately.

While the EPA promised to fully educate the regulated community on how the new CDR rule is supposed to work, Upton said that “the training materials for electronic reporting and other compliance tools are still nowhere to be found”.

“The facts make us wonder whether your EPA is either unready to implement this costly regulation, or worse, playing ‘hide the ball’ with the regulated community – setting folks up for noncompliance,” Upton told Jackson.

He said that while the EPA has planned another compliance education conference for regulated companies for Thursday this week (19 January), he said that effort was “too little, too late”.

“Until the chaos caused by EPA over the Chemical Data Reporting rule’s implementation is cleared up, a stand-down seems necessary,” Upton said.

He asked that the EPA postpone the 1 February compliance deadline to a distant but unspecified date, one that would be closer to the CDR reporting period that begins in June 2016.

Scott Jensen, spokesman for the American Chemistry Council (ACC), said the council welcomed Upton’s effort, noting that it has previously expressed concerns about the new rule.

“We have concerns regarding the lack of clarification about the reporting requirements for by-products,” among other issues, he said.

“We would support an extension until EPA clarifies their approach to by-products so our members fully understand what they are required to report,” he said.

A spokesman for the EPA said that the agency had received Upton’s letter but that it was too soon to respond.

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

By: Joe Kamalick
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