Sunday, June 21, 2009

Industry Reaction to Obama Decision to Suspend ChAMP Chemical Program

As noted a few days ago, the Obama EPA has decided to suspend its voluntary Chemical Assessment & Management Program (ChAMP). The news came as a bit of a shock to most policy watchers, both on the industry and NGO side (and apparently also within the Agency).

Industry reaction has been mixed, some attacking the decision as "less about science and more about the new administration's desire for a command-and-control approach to chemicals management policy." For example, the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association (NPRA) attacked the move in a statement issued June 18th by accusing the EPA of remaining “silent about its full intentions, contradicting President Obama's commitment to transparency and support for scientific integrity.” NPRA's President, Charles Drevna further noted that “[i]t is extremely disheartening that the administration would abandon its priority-setting chemicals management process before it is even given the opportunity to work.” Drevna further "urge[d] the administration to reconsider its abandonment of both the scientifically sound ChAMP initiative and the United States’ commitments to Canada and Mexico under the Security & Prosperity Partnership of North America."

Similarly, the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA) issued a statement in which indicated that the suspension of ChAMP “is creating confusion over how or whether to continue activities already begun by industry in this effort.” In the SOCMA statement, Bill Allmond, vice president of government relations, urged "EPA to not delay the forward progress it has been making under ChAMP. We applaud the agency for wishing to strengthen its chemicals management program, but we’re concerned that, in order to do so, they’re stopping it altogether. We hope that EPA’s evaluation of ChAMP will be brief and maintain the program’s original intent.”

Meanwhile, the American Chemistry Council (ACC) also issued a statement, though perhaps with a less strident tone. ACC says “[W]e are confident that any changes to ChAMP do not signal a reversal of the U.S. government’s commitment, but rather to further strengthen the program.” ACC seems to believe that the initial reports are overreactive and that EPA will find a way to get chemical reviews moving again. ACC was the original industry lead in developing the voluntary High Production Volume (HPV) Challenge program, from which ChAMP evolved as a means to evaluate the collected data.

Consistent with ACC's view is the fact that EPA has requested an additional $3 million for the program in its fiscal year 2010 budget proposal. The budget request includes monies to hire additional employee resources in order to accelerate the development of the ChAMP prioritization documents. Now, according to an EPA spokesman, the EPA is looking at options “to determine how best to ramp up efforts to assess, prioritize and take risk management action on chemicals of concern. EPA plans to announce the specifics of this effort this summer and will seek public input into the discussion.”

So it seems that EPA already has some idea in mind about how it prefers to proceed. Expect more updates and potential options for moving forward as information continues to become available.

No comments: