US chemicals sector must deal with enviros to get TSCA reform

05 March 2012 21:53  [Source: ICIS news]

BALTIMORE, Maryland (ICIS)--US chemicals trade groups will have to negotiate with environmentalists and Democrats in Congress to reach consensus on realistic reform of fundamental chemicals control regulations, a leading industry official said on Monday.

Ernie Rosenberg, president of the American Cleaning Institute (ACI), said that producers will have to engage with and enlist support of at least some environmental groups and congressional Democrats to effect reform and modernisation of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) in 2013.

The 36-year-old TSCA is the principal US statute governing control of chemicals in commerce. 

It has not been substantially altered since it was enacted in 1976, and environmentalists, chemicals industry officials, downstream chemicals consumer industries and state regulators all want to see it brought up to date.

Noting that no one expects the current US Congress to make any substantive progress toward reform of TSCA during this election year, Rosenberg said that industry leaders have to engage environmental groups and congressional Democrats in the months ahead to agree on the basic tenets of TSCA reform to get a bill through Congress in 2013-2014.

“Unless we can get at least some Democrats and some NGOs [non-governmental organisations] to agree to a version of TSCA reform, it will not be credible and we won’t be able to get it through Congress,” Rosenberg said.  Non-governmental organisations include environmental groups and stakeholders other than office-holders.

Speaking on the sidelines of the annual GlobalChem regulatory conference, Rosenberg said that if Republicans retain control of the US House of Representatives and win a majority in the Senate in the coming November elections, there is a better chance of getting TSCA reform through Congress.

“If the leaders of both chambers are comfortable with a TSCA reform bill, then we can probably move something through Congress,” Rosenberg said.

He said that the current Democrat majority in the Senate has advanced an extreme TSCA make-over that is a non-starter with industry, and leaders in the Republican-controlled House “are not convinced that we need a new regulatory programme” in place of TSCA, especially when their emphasis is on reducing the size of government and cutting regulations.

House Republican leaders, he said, also are wary of passing a TSCA reform bill that could then be radically altered by the Democrat-controlled Senate, making House Republicans vulnerable to a charge of “anti-environment” if they reject the Senate version.

However, he said, the industry very much wants a reform of TSCA that will produce “a credible federal chemicals controls programme” that will encourage innovation and pre-empt or at least preclude multiple, duplicative and conflicting state-level regulatory approaches.

“Unless we get Democrats and NGOs to agree to a version of TSCA reform, it won’t be credible and it will not get through Congress,” Rosenberg said.

Cosponsored by the American Chemistry Council (ACC) and the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA), the GlobalChem conference began on Monday and runs through Wednesday.

The ACI represents chemical companies and downstream manufacturers of household, industrial and institutional cleaning products.

By: Joe Kamalick
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