17 May 2013 10:00 [Source: ICB]
Senator David Vitter (R-LA) talks about the importance of the chemical sector, TSCA reform and his priorities going forward
As a member of the US Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, what are your priorities?
As the top-ranking Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, I'm focused on key infrastructure bills, like the Water Resources Development Act and the upcoming highway bill, along with making sure the administration is held accountable for its regulatory agenda. I'm doing that by making sure they are much more transparent, starting with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and also by demanding they focus on the economics of their decisions, as well as using sound quality science. A lot this will start with Gina McCarthy's nomination process.
How significant is the nomination by President Barack Obama of Gina McCarthy as head of the EPA?
The EPA has earned a reputation for ignoring congressional information requests and hiding emails and other information from the public. It's in desperate need of a leader who will reverse these practices and build a true culture of transparency and accountability. Unfortunately, the President's nominee, Gina McCarthy, comes from inside the troubled agency and has been involved in many of the problem areas. So she has an awful lot to answer for.
How important is the chemicals sector to the US economy?
The chemical industry is not only vital to the US economy but to the economy of Louisiana as well. The recent surge in domestic oil and gas production has spurred reinvestment domestically, and serves as one of the lone bright spots helping the US weather this economic storm. A big part of this resurgence has been led by the chemical manufacturers, which play a key role in the efforts to revitalize domestic manufacturing and jobs.
Vitter (pictured, center) explains that chemicals are crucial to the economy and our standard of living
To what extent do you believe the federal government's policies encourage growth and innovation in the petrochemicals/chemicals sector and its customer sectors?
Unfortunately, many of the federal government's policies are working against the recent renaissance we have seen and could potentially handcuff future investment in the petrochemical businesses in Louisiana and across the country. This administration has taken a hardline position against all things oil and gas, which includes the petrochemical industry. In particular, federal agencies like the EPA and the Department of the Interior (DOI) have unjustifiably attacked hydraulic fracturing and, despite its long history and documented safe track record, are doing everything in their power to justify regulating it out of existence.
What more needs to be done to support the chemicals sector, in Louisiana and nationwide?
In general, we need a friendlier and more conducive business environment in this country - from tax policies to the regulatory onslaught. We have been blessed with a massive domestic supply of natural gas used in chemical feedstocks, and we have to make sure our chemical producers and manufacturers have the access to resources they need. Many folks in Washington DC need to realize that chemicals are not only crucial to our economy but to our standard of living: from ensuring our food is safe to eat and our water is safe to drink, to creating the best lifesaving medical supplies and equipment used at hospitals around the world.
Why does the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) need to be reformed?
First and foremost, the Toxic Substances Control Act is more than 35 years old and, like many of our nation's laws, is in need of modernization. Because of certain provisions in the law and the way TSCA has been administered over the years, there is a real lack of confidence in federal chemical regulation, which is increasingly leading to an unworkable patchwork of state regulations. Not having a strong and predictable federal system is unworkable for the public, as well as the regulated community. Also, there is growing concern with the low quality of scientific assessment work being done at the EPA.
Can you tell us about your plans to create a bi-partisan bill to reform TSCA?
I continue to work to reach across the aisle and develop bi-partisan TSCA reforms. I am confident that this Congress, with the strong support I am getting from a few of my committee Republican colleagues, puts us in a tenable position for both sides of the aisle. We need to balance the needs of the EPA to protect human health and the environment with the ability to allow industry to innovate and continue leading in the global marketplace.
What can the US government and the EPA learn from the implementation of the new Reach (registration, evaluation and authorization of chemicals) regulations in the European Union?
I think it is first important to note that the full effects of Reach have yet to be realized. To the extent possible, EPA and other federal agencies should take advantage of some of the lessons the Europeans are learning as well as some of the information gathered under Reach. The administration should also be observing other regulatory schemes such as the one in Canada for models of what works and what doesn't. The US is the world leader when it comes to chemical manufacturing and the innovation it helps spur. We need to make sure we continue to safely develop and use chemicals while protecting our businesses, from the five employee mom and pop shops to the larger global players that supply us with millions of jobs up and down the supply chain.
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee also oversees air pollution laws. The EPA has been criticized for failing to provide adequate guidance on parts of the Clean Air Act (section 112r(1)), amid claims that this has led to inconsistent enforcement of chemical facilities. What can be done to resolve this problem?
There are constant and serious issues with the EPA's 'creative interpretation' under existing laws. I know that one of my colleagues in the House of Representatives, Congressman Mike Pompeo (Republican-Kansas), has introduced legislation aimed at addressing this specific challenge in particular. In general, federal agencies need to be more transparent and consistent with their decision making and policies. That includes inspections and enforcement, and they need to understand they work for the American people and industry, not against.
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