15 March 2013 15:09 [Source: ICIS news]
By Joseph Chang
NEW YORK (ICIS)--One key focus for the National Association of Chemical Distributors (NACD) in 2013 will be to address US regulatory overreach – a major area of concern for small business members, officials said on Friday.
“We are a big supporter of the General Duty Clause Clarification Act of 2013, which would provide clarity for our members on what is required in the General Duty Clause of the Clean Air Act. This applies to all facilities that handle chemicals,” said John Shanahan, vice president of legislative affairs for NACD.
“This clause has been in place since 1990 but has not really been defined. The result is that this is interpreted differently, region to region, and EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] inspector to inspector,” he added.
The General Duty Clause requires owners and operators of facilities to work to identify and prevent accidental releases of hazardous substances.
Yet EPA has yet to issue any proposed rule detailing enforcement or compliance requirements, noted a 28 February letter of support to the sponsors of the act, signed by the NACD and 24 other trade groups.
EPA has increasingly used the General Duty Clause to impose substantial fines on chemical distribution facilities in an arbitrary fashion, noted Shanahan.
“Distributors have been hammered by the EPA on this,” said Chris Jahn, president of the NACD.
The bipartisan bill, sponsored by Congressman Mike Pompeo (Republican-Kansas), Jim Matheson (Democrat-Utah), Billy Long (Republican-Missouri) and Bob Latta (Republican-Ohio), has a chance of passing this year, noted the NACD officials.
“[House Speaker] John Boehner wants action on bipartisan bills, so the opportunity is very good on the House side. In the Senate, it could be more difficult,” said Shanahan.
The US House of Representatives is controlled by a Republican majority, while the Senate is controlled by Democrats.
“The regulatory community is the unelected fourth branch of government. We are not advocating for taking away their power. We just want regulations defined so industry can meet the standard,” said Jahn.
“We want the EPA to stay within its own authority and not overstep, such as in imposing fines on security issues,” said Shanahan.
The bill would “provide much-needed regulatory certainty and clarity by requiring EPA to complete a transparent rulemaking on the General Duty Clause before finding any facility in violation of the provision, and allowing owners and operators to make the final decision regarding the implementation of inherently safer approaches or technologies”, according to the letter.
“Finally, the bill would also ensure proper application of the clause by affirming that jurisdiction of chemical facility security remains with the Department of Homeland Security, as Congress intended,” it added.
In additional to addressing US regulatory overreach, other priorities include making permanent the CFATS (Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards) rules, and the modernisation of TSCA (Toxic Substances Control Act), said Shanahan.
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