US reform of TSCA should consider small producers – SOCMA

27 February 2013 18:54  [Source: ICIS news]

NATIONAL HARBOR, Maryland (ICIS)--Congressional reform of the principal US law governing chemicals in commerce should give due consideration to the potential impact on small producers, an industry leader said here on Wednesday.

Larry Sloan, president of the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA), said he worries that a comprehensive rewrite of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) could fail to address special concerns of small- and medium-size enterprises.

New legislation to reform and modernise the TSCA is expected within a month from Senator David Vitter of Louisiana, the ranking Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

But Sloan said that SOCMA firms might be ill-served by a single, broad-brush approach to modernising the 37-year-old TSCA and that targeted amendments to tweak the existing statute could be sounder.

Many of SOCMA’s member companies – specialty chemical and batch producers – are small firms, some with as few as a dozen employees, and often don’t present the kind of lobbying muscle on Capitol Hill that major producers can enjoy.

Speaking at the annual GlobalChem regulatory conference, Sloan said that he is “encouraged by an apparent consensus among stakeholders that our 30-plus-year-old chemical control law needs to be updated”.

“Unfortunately, agreement seems to stop there,” he said.

“Our failure to achieve TSCA reform has as much to do with our approach to reform as it does with the substance of it,” he said.

“In this politically charged, partisan environment in which Congress operates, somehow we have continually tried to find that silver bullet to fix everything in one comprehensive piece of legislation, only to lead to stalemate each time,” Sloan said.

“To be successful, we need to identify areas where there is some consensus among stakeholders and move those ideas forward,” he said, adding: “Until we do, the prospect that there will be support from Democrats and Republicans alike will remain out of reach.”

In the US Congress, Democrats hold the majority in the Senate, while Republicans have control in the House. This party split between the two chambers means that common ground on any number of legislative issues has been hard to find.

Sloan said that from the perspective of small and medium producers, any revisions to the TSCA must ensure adequate protections for confidential business information against regulatory disclosures that could undermine innovation and give US trade secrets to foreign competitors.

He also urged that the “unreasonable zero-risk safety standard” must be amended, arguing that there can never be a total absence of risk and trying to regulate it is fruitless.

Sloan also said that TSCA reform should include consideration of state-level concerns and, having met those local issues, should provide for federal pre-emption of state chemical control laws.

Without federal pre-emption, he said, chemicals producers small and large will continue to face a growing patchwork of differing and conflicting state requirements.

Cosponsored by SOCMA and the American Chemistry Council (ACC), the three-day GlobalChem regulatory conference concluded on Wednesday.

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

By: Joe Kamalick
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