Thursday, June 24, 2010

More on how the November elections may impact the TSCA Chemical Reform bills being debated

Yesterday I wrote a commentary piece about how the likely change in numbers of Republicans and Democrats could affect the ongoing discussions to revise TSCA. A commenter raised some good points so I thought today I would expand on my responses.

To begin with the commenter opined that my "political analysis in this case is simplistic and overly tied to conventional wisdom." He (or she, the comment was Anonymous) noted that "the industry position on TSCA reform is not at all monolithic. There are divisions within the ranks and conflicting needs from within the business community. Some industry industry interests want more than has been proposed. Others want the burden shifted to other sectors."

To which I wholeheartedly agree. In my reply I noted that "the industry position is not at all monolithic, nor for that matter is the NGO position or the positions of the individual companies (or of the American people, should they even have an opinion)." I also pointed out that "clearly the end user, small enterprise, and specialty manufacturers and formulators have different desires, and concerns, than the larger manufacturers. This is especially true in comparison to the multinational companies who may find that their significant resources and prior data generation for HPV and REACH gives them a distinct competitive advantage."

The "environmental/health friendly tone" you ascribe to the current bills belies the fact that there are many in that camp that find portions of the proposals to be unworkable and incomplete on practical grounds.

Again, I agree. Not surprisingly "there are portions of the proposals that are more than acceptable, and patently unacceptable, to both sides (and all the other sides)." Furthermore, I also agreed "that the situation is much more intricate, intertwined, and complicated than what can be presented in the very limited space I had available." I believe I've discussed many of these differences of opinion and the desired options of various stakeholders in my previous writings in this post. Yesterday's posting was one of my occasional commentaries in which I speculated "on the influences of a likely change in political power after November."

Then there's the American people, who overwhelmingly want safer products. Then there's the state chemical policy experiment where every new law has been voted in with overwhelming bipartisan support.

I actually didn't address this directly in my reply but here again the commenter makes an excellent observation. Clearly "the American people" want safe products. However, defining what is "safe" and how to demonstrate it is obviously more difficult than simply saying you want safe products. Many of the "American people," for example, also don't want too much government interference that could stifle innovation. Where is that line?

The political landscape for safer chemicals legislation is complicated and will defy conventional partisan analysis in the end.

I suppose my piece yesterday did seem to suggest "conventional partisan analysis," but if that is the case it certainly doesn't reflect my understanding of the process. On the other hand, wisdom becomes conventional for a reason...there is usually good support for it, at least on the general level.

I agree we'll see substantive TSCA reform, but I find it senseless to speculate around a duality of who it will be friendlier to when that reality doesn't really exist.

I disagree that such speculation is senseless. I noted that "to ignore the differences of position, even if they are generalities, is to ignore the realities of the debate." While I agreed earlier that the "conventional wisdom" is oversimplified (rather than merely "simplistic"), the fact is that the two parties have very different views on the level of government regulation that is appropriate. I think Representative Barton and the Republican Study Committee made that point quite clear this past week.

The fact is that most in industry feel the bills go too far in modernizing the law. And most of the advocacy NGOs would feel the bills do not go far enough in many respects. As the old adage says, "the devil is in the details." And I think most would agree that the preferred details lean one direction for the Republicans and the other direction for the Democrats. And while certainly within the caucuses there are shades of opinion, in the current partisan environment those shades are less and less gray and more and more black and white. I think this will have an influence on the nature of the final bills when they get reintroduced next year. Others may disagree.

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