04 February 2014 17:19 [Source: ICIS news]
WASHINGTON (ICIS)--US chemicals industry officials on Tuesday urged Congress to improve testing and data-collection procedures as part of a modernisation and reform of the fundamental federal law governing chemicals in commerce.
In a hearing before the House Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy, industry leaders asked Congress to give the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) more flexible authority for testing chemicals already in commercial use.
But they also asked that Congress require EPA to conduct a specific number of chemical evaluations each year to speed what has been a long-delayed process.
The subcommittee, part of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, was holding its fifth hearing in nine months on efforts to modernise the 38-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). That statute is considered woefully out of date and in dire need of reform by both the environmental community and chemicals manufacturers.
The subcommittee’s hearing on Tuesday was focused in particular on existing provisions of TSCA for testing existing chemicals and collecting data from industry about their chemical products.
Beth Bosley, president of Boron Specialties of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, told the panel that “The real problem with TSCA has been the treatment of existing chemicals”.
“EPA is required to go through a rulemaking process [to evaluate existing chemicals], which has contributed to delays in EPA getting the data they need,” she said, noting that in some cases it has taken years to complete rulemaking regarding some high-volume industrial chemicals “even though industry has strongly supported issuance of the rules”.
In reforming and modernising this part of TSCA with new legislation, Bosley said, Congress should consider giving EPA authority to issue orders instead of going through tedious rulemaking procedures.
However, she cautioned, “Congress should not authorise unnecessary blanket or one-size-fits-all testing requirements”.
Speaking on behalf of the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA), Bosley emphasised that “any testing approaches should be tiered and targeted”.
If EPA is given more timely authority to test existing chemicals, she said, testing “should start off at a screening level and focus on where exposures are most likely”.
In addition, Bosley said, if EPA is given that broader testing authority, “EPA should have to abide by basic standards of scientific quality in specifying and accepting screening and testing data”.
She also urged that Congress mandate - and provide resource funding to enable - a speedier testing pace by EPA.
The agency should be required, Bosley said, “to review a minimum number of chemicals annually via a risk-based prioritisation process”, adding that such a mandate should include adequate funding and staff resources for EPA.
Bosley also asked that the part of TSCA that authorises EPA to collect data from manufacturers about end uses and exposure scenarios of their products should be broadened to allow data-gathering from downstream users of chemical products, arguing that those companies are more knowledgeable about exposure and use details than upstream manufacturers.
Charles Drevna, president of the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), also urged the panel to update TSCA in a way that requires EPA to prioritise the testing and assessment of chemicals in commerce.
Prioritisation, said Drevna, “takes a screening-level look at chemical hazard and exposure that tells scientists whether or not more work is needed to deem a substance as safe for its intended conditions of use”.
Drevna also urged that a reformed TSCA “include provisions that increase scientific quality and transparency at the agency”.
“Specific language should require EPA to develop criteria by which the agency and public can judge the quality of scientific studies under consideration, as well as EPA risk assessments,” Drevna said.
The House is said to be close to introducing formal legislation to modernise TSCA. The Senate is already considering a bipartisan bill, the Chemical Safety Improvement Act (CSIA), which has been broadly welcomed by industry and has qualified support among environmentalists.
Industry hopes for final congressional action on TSCA reform sometime this year, but the painstaking process might well run into 2015.
Paul Hodges studies key influences shaping the chemical industry in Chemicals and the Economy
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