Editor’s note: This article is an opinion piece, and the views expressed are those of the author and do not represent those of ICIS.
By Cal Dooley, president and CEO,
American Chemistry Council
This year’s GlobalChem conference could not have come at a more exciting or more pivotal time for the US business of chemistry.
In February, US chemical manufacturers surpassed the $100bn mark in anticipated investments related to shale gas. Nearly 150 investment projects – ranging from restarts to expansions to brand new facilities – will create an estimated $81bn/year in new chemical industry output and 637,000 permanent new jobs in communities across the US, according to American Chemistry Council (ACC) analysis.
In order for our industry to grow to its fullest potential, it is critical that we work together to ensure a practical, effective chemical regulatory system is in place. Simply put, we need a Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) that works in modern times.
Fortunately, we have before us today a historic opportunity to improve the safety of chemicals in commerce with legislation pending in both houses of Congress.
First, there’s the bipartisan breakthrough from last year, the Chemical Safety Improvement Act (CSIA), introduced by the late Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey and Senator David Vitter of Louisiana. With 13 Republican and 12 Democratic co-sponsors, the CSIA is something no one could have predicted – and some would have said it could never happen.
But the breakthrough did happen, and having a carefully crafted, bipartisan bill like the CSIA on the table in today’s legislative environment should not be taken for granted. There is no guarantee that we could see a bill of similar depth, scope or breadth of compromise, appear again in the future.
Also under review today is the Chemicals in Commerce Act, introduced by Congressman John Shimkus (Republican-Illinois). In multiple hearings over the last year, chairman Shimkus and his colleagues from the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy demonstrated their strong willingness to listen to the views of a broad cross-section of stakeholders and to learn more about what is needed to successfully update TSCA.
I believe that, with a true commitment to reform from all interested parties and both sides of the aisle, we can work through any remaining concerns with the two proposed bills and pass into law a system that all stakeholders can be satisfied with.
But we must act on what we have in front of us today.
One reason that, as we continue to debate TSCA reform here in the US, countries around the globe are making plans to create or amend their own chemical regulatory systems.
In Asia, for example, where chemical manufacturing is growing, we are seeing an unfortunate trend to base new chemical regulation on Europe’s REACH model. Instead, we need to be demonstrating that a risk and science-based approach to chemicals management is the better alternative.
A 2012 study sponsored by the European Commission found that “the regulatory burden placed on firms by REACH tends to draw staff and funds away from more innovative work” – meaning companies are reporting on REACH’s negative impact more often than any of its positive outcomes.
By stark contrast, in the US we see three times as many new chemical substances introduced to the market than in any other region of the world. Any chemical regulatory system that hinders rather than encourages innovation is far from a gold standard.
That is why I believe that an updated US chemicals management system based on the legislative proposals now before Congress would be the strongest, most sensible and most effective model for other countries to follow.
Today, we are witness to a period of unprecedented growth in the chemical industry. We must seize the opportunity to modernise our chemical regulatory regime to ensure that we capitalise on the advantage of shale gas and demonstrate that we have the gold standard of chemical management.
Combined with the potential for a more open and less costly free trade environment, our competitors will be losing sleep over our just how bright our future looks here in America.
It’s the type of rare opportunity that we simply cannot afford to miss.