Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Chemical Industry Wants Input to Changes in US Chemical Control Policy

Representatives from the chemical industry are calling for a more formal process for the development of a new chemical regulation policy in the United States. As reported here previously, the US Congress has been working hard to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which has been the authorizing legislation for regulating chemicals in the US for over thirty years. However, virtually everyone agrees that it needs to be "modernized."

There are calls from all sides for a comprehensive review of TSCA that includes input from a broad range of stakeholders, including industry and advocacy groups. All sides also agree on the basic principles for reform (or modernization), and the need to examine the European REACH system for what works and what doesn't work. Industry in particular would not like to see a system as cumbersome as REACH, but feel that some of the concepts can be applied within a US-based system that prioritizes chemicals for closer review.

The timing on when this will occur remains uncertain. Senator Frank Lautenberg has been promising to reintroduce the Kid Safe Chemical Act any day, though he's been saying that since the beginning of the year. Currently Congress is pretty busy with health care, climate change, and likely finance reform bills, so it's quite possible that the introduction of a TSCA modernization bill will not happen until 2010.

Industry and advocacy groups have been meeting with Congressional staff off and on for months, and a delegation from a trade association and member companies is expected to visit Senator Lautenberg’s office in the near future to discuss their concerns. It is likely that the TSCA reform principles released by EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson a couple weeks ago will shape whatever proposal is put forward.

It is clear that most people think that chemical control reform in the US is going to happen even though there is some uncertainty as to when and in what form. But the overlapping general principles offered by EPA, industry, and advocacy groups offer a good idea of what the new legislation will cover. Of course, the devil is in the details.

I'll continue to update as new information becomes available. I'll provide more in-depth analysis of the principles in my next post.