US House panel urged to maintain key TSCA provisions in reforms

11 July 2013 17:54  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--US chemical industry officials on Thursday urged a House panel to maintain two key elements of existing federal controls for chemicals in commerce, but environmentalists pressed for much tougher regulations.

In a hearing before the House Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy on modernisation of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), chemical industry executive Craig Morrison called for renewal of that law’s procedures for authorising new chemicals and for continued strong protection for confidential business information (CBI).

Morrison, chief executive of Columbus, Ohio-based specialty chemicals producer Momentive Performance Material Holdings and chairman of the American Chemistry Council (ACC), said that “any effort to reform TSCA should be careful to preserve the essential elements of the new chemical review program that protect health and the environment and US commercial and competitive interests”.

In addition, he told the panel, “The protection of confidential business information under section 14 of TSCA is crucial to the chemical industry’s global competitiveness and the industry’s ability to innovate to produce cleaner, safer and more effective products”.

But Heather White, executive director of the Environmental Working Group (EWG), argued that “TSCA is fundamentally broken” and, among other reforms, needs much tougher limits on confidentiality claims.

Reform of TSCA should require manufacturers to provide advance justification for confidentiality, create an automatic sunset for CBI claims and make all information in health and safety studies ineligible for confidential treatment, including chemical identities, she said.

In her testimony, White argued that the existing TSCA framework for evaluating and authorising new chemicals or new uses for existing chemicals does not provide the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sufficient time to make informed judgements about a chemical’s potential health and environmental risks.

That framework, she said, “ensures that most new chemicals are on the market before regulators can adequately review them for safety”.

In turn, Morrison argued that the TSCA’s protections for confidential chemical identities in particular are critical because those data “are among the most valuable intellectual property in the chemical industry”.

He agreed that it would be appropriate for a modernised TSCA “to require that claims for the protection of confidential information be justified in advance”.

However, he added, “ACC strongly opposes any change in policy affecting the opportunity to claim confidentiality in chemical identities because of the significant impact it would have on our industry’s ability to compete in domestic and international markets”.

Morrison said that the TSCA must continue to strike a balance between the public interest in health and environmental safety and “the industry’s legitimate commercial intellectual property interests”.

“Revisions to TSCA must not create disincentives for companies to invest in the development of new chemicals and new applications of existing chemicals,” he added.

There is no pending TSCA reform legislation pending in the House, but a bipartisan modernisation bill was introduced in the Senate in late May and is awaiting hearings. That bill has been welcomed by chemicals producers.

The House is not expected to craft its own TSCA reform measure but instead likely will wait until the Senate bill is approved and passed on to the House, where it could face changes.

Final congressional action on a reform measure is not expected until sometime in 2014.

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

By: Joe Kamalick
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