Saturday, August 7, 2010

New design for The Dake Page

Okay, I'm working on a new design template for The Dake Page. 

See, for example, the link tools below. You can email the article to someone you think would find it interesting.  You can also tweet it to your Twitter account or share it on your Facebook...or link to your blog or even Google buzz it.

Let me know if the new design is better...or worse...or the same.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Chemical Insecurity? USPIRG seems to think so in new report

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group has been around for a long time, though perhaps doesn't roll off the tongue (or garner as much publicity) as well Greenpeace and PETA.  But yesterday they released a report that identifies "14 chemical companies that endanger the most Americans in the event of a chemical release."  The report called "Chemical Insecurity: America's most dangerous companies and the multimillion dollar campaign against common sense solutions," pulls no punches as it names names...or at least those names that it believes have been lobbying hard against passage of new laws to change security practices at the nations chemical manufacturing facilities.  The most recent bills were introduced recently by Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, though passage seems unlikely in this Congress.

According to USPIRG, the key findings of the report include:

• The fourteen companies with the most people in the danger zones in the event of an accident or attack on one of their facilities are: Clorox, Kuehne Chemical, JCI Jones, KIK Custom Products, DuPont, PVS Chemicals, Olin, DX Holding, Solvay, Valero, Occidental Petroleum, Honeywell, Dow Chemical, and Sunoco..

• The Clorox Company, Kuehne Chemical, and JCI Jones Chemical each own facilities that together put more than 12 million people at risk.

• These fourteen companies and their affiliated trade associations spent $69,286,198 lobbying the committees with jurisdiction over chemical security legislation in 2008 and 2009—Energy and Commerce and Homeland Security in the House, and Environment and Public Works and Homeland Security and Government Oversight in the Senate.

• The political action committees (PACs) of these fourteen companies and the PACs of their affiliated trade associations gave $2,187,868 in the 2008 election cycle and the 2010 cycle to date directly to the campaigns of members of the committees of jurisdiction over chemical security legislation.

• These fourteen companies and their affiliated trade associations employ 20 ‘revolving door’ lobbyists who previously staffed the committees of jurisdiction over chemical security and toxics before becoming lobbyists on those same issues.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

EPA test results show eight oil dispersants are all about the same toxicity

Soon after the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded into flames and sunk more than three months ago, a chemical called Corexit 9500A was used to disperse the oil. That didn't mean it was gone, just spread out in the water column more so that it is 1) less noticeable, and 2) has a better chance to degrade or to simply dilute further away.  But many questioned whether the dispersant chemical itself wasn't a danger to aquatic wildlife.

EPA has been testing Corexit and seven other dispersant chemicals to see if any substitutes are less toxic.  Well, it turns out they are all pretty much the same level of toxicity when mixed with Louisiana Sweet Crude Oil.  According to EPA, "these results confirm that the dispersant used in response to the oil spill in the gulf, Corexit 9500A, when mixed with oil, is generally no more or less toxic than mixtures with the other available alternatives. The results also indicate that dispersant-oil mixtures are generally no more toxic to the aquatic test species than oil alone."

Some have suggested that the fact EPA had to do testing in the first place, i.e., didn't already have the toxicity data for these chemicals, demonstrates that the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) is totally ineffectual.  The 63,000 or so existing chemicals that were grandfathered onto the TSCA Inventory over 30 years ago had no testing done at the time and only the most high volume ones produced during a certain period have had extensive data gathered on them.  New chemicals undergo a rigorous review by EPA, but based almost entirely on computer models and comparisons to chemicals of similar structure.  Most new chemical notifications include no toxicity testing data, and none is required under the current law unless EPA can show the likelihood of sufficient harm (which is hard to do when you have no data on which to base an assessment of harm).

Congress has started its August recess, after which they will focus mostly on trying to get reelected.  So it looks like next year for TSCA reform.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

EPA Moves Forward with Chemical Action Plans

Last fall EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and OPPTS chief Steve Owens promised that while Congress debated TSCA reform, the EPA would move forward with what they called "Action Plans."  EPA then released five action plans in December 2009, with the idea that they would be releasing about 4 more per quarter.  They have slipped from that idea, but are just about ready to issue a couple of more.

Several months ago, in the spring, EPA sent two action plans to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), as is policy for any activities with potentially significant impacts on business.  On Monday OMB finally approved both action plans, one for nonylphenol and its ethoxylates and the other for the brominated flame retardant, hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD).

So expect EPA to release the two plans shortly and post them on their web site.  Both plans will likely contain provisions similar to the five previous plans, including consideration of the use of a series of existing TSCA rulemaking authorities. 

Meanwhile, EPA has also been working three additional test plans for siloxanes, benzidine dyes, and diisocyanates.  No word yet on the schedule for those, which also will have to go through OMB review.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

NGO Reaction to the House Toxic Chemicals Safety Act of 2010

Last week I gave some initial industry reactions to the formal introduction of the House version of the Toxic Chemicals Safety Act, i.e., the TSCA reform bill.  I've missed a few days but today will jump back in with some of the key NGO reactions.

Testifying at the hearing on July 29th was Richard Denison, lead toxicologist at the Environmental Defense Fund.  Dr. Denison spoke on behalf of both EDF and the EDF-led Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families Coalition. Not surprisingly Denison was very supportive of the bill, at least the promise of the bill, and emphasized that it was critical that the bill move forward in this Congress.  That seems unlikely given that the actual legislative days left in session before the election are few.  Also, while he was supportive of the bill and appreciative of industry's claims of support, he posted in a rather incredulous sounding blog on the EDF site questioning "should we continue to take the chemical industry at its word when it insists it's still for TSCA reform."

Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook was another witness at the hearing, and he too was very supportive of the bill.  He "called on pass tough new legislation to repair a “broken toxic chemicals policy” that is currently so weak “the American public has lost confidence that the products they are using, the chemicals they are being exposed to, are safe.”"  However, Cook also took exception in his blog post with what he saw as less then credible support by industry.  He also felt that in the opening comments were largely to "set the contrary theme voiced by a number of Republicans, scoring the bill with words including “cumbersome,” “unworkable,” “ineffective,” and “overly broad.”  The word "jobs" (as in, chemical reform would hurt jobs) was also a common term used by Republicans and also by several Democrats (e.g., Rep. Dingell of the hard hit state of Michigan).

Dr Mark Mitchell, President of the Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice also voiced support for the bill.  Mitchell was most emphatic that any new chemical standards must be stringent enough to protect the public and vulnerable populations, and felt that a “reasonable certainty of no harm” would accomplish this goal.  He also noted that “in its current state," the bill "will go far in addressing environmental justice issues with chemical policy.”

With the August recess about to start, we'll see what happens between now and the end of the year on this and the Senate bill.  More than likely they will have to be reintroduced next year.