Friday, November 19, 2010

EPA (Almost) Ready to Release New Chemical Action Plans

Well, in the broad definition of the word "almost."  EPA has been promising release of two new chemical action plans - siloxanes and diisocyanates - for quite some time now, but internal discussions and external input from manufacturers and users have kept EPA from finalizing them.  Still, key EPA directors have indicated they plan to put them online by the end of the year.

Beyond that EPA is still trying to decide how to proceed.  With TSCA reform not being passed this year and some uncertainty about the potential timing and/or outcome of reintroduction next year, EPA has indicated that it will continue to push the envelope on its authority under the existing TSCA law.  On the other hand, several members of the incoming majority in the House (and the closer minority in the Senate) have indicated that they think EPA has overstepped that authority in the issuance of these action plans.  So I suspect EPA is working through the options for moving forward, either with or without TSCA reform.

And as I reported yesterday, the individual states are not sitting around idly waiting for Congress to pass a new law.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

With Uncertainty About the Future of TSCA Chemical Reform in Congress , States Increase Regulatory Action

I have spent a lot of time on this site talking about various aspects of the attempts to reform/update/modernize the 34-year old Toxic Substances Control Act.  One aspect I've mentioned several times is the work of various states to "fill in the gaps" of the federal level law.  A new report shows that states have stepped up their activity in light of the lack of substantive movement on TSCA reform legislation in the US Congress.

The report, by two health advocacy coalitions - SAFER States and Safer Chemicals Healthy Families - is called "Healthy States" and documents that "states aren’t waiting for Congress to take action on toxic chemicals—they are taking matters into their own hands."

According to the report, "state restrictions on toxic chemicals are on the rise, and will probably continue to increase until Congress overhauls failing federal legislation."  Among other activities, the report highlights:
  • In the last eight years, eighteen states have passed 71 chemical safety laws.
  • The pace of state policy making on chemicals has more than tripled in eight years.
  • Sixty-six laws banned bisphenol A (BPA) in baby and toddler products (with 98% support), phased out toxic flame retardants (PBDEs) in home products (93%), reduced children’s exposure from common products containing lead (88%) and cadmium (86%), and promoted green cleaning.
  • State legislators strongly supported recent state laws that create new programs for broad regulation of toxic chemicals. This includes comprehensive laws passed in California, Maine, Minnesota and Washington state.

According to SAFER States, "while Washington DC is stuck in chemical industry politics, the states are growing frustrated and taking matters into their own hands -- passing laws which will help to temper the public outcry until a day comes when we are comfortable with the chemicals that are infiltrating every part of our lives."

The chemical industry has in the past supported the concept (though not necessarily the details) of federal-level TSCA modernization, in large part because they don't want the kind of patchwork regulatory quilt in which state-level regulations would result.  With the 2010 Safe Chemicals Act bills left to die without action, new versions of the bills will need to be introduced in the next Congress.  The change of majority party in the House and the subsequent differences in viewpoint between many key incoming House members and the opposite majority party in the Senate have created some uncertainty about the path forward.  What this report shows is that the states will continue, and likely increase, their state-level action in an effort to 1) deal with the lack of federal-level action in Congress, and 2) stimulate federal-level action in Congress.

The report can be downloaded on either of the two advocacy sites linked above.  A PDF is available here.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Rational Discussion of Climate Change - Live on C-SPAN3 [Upated with Replay]

As I mentioned yesterday there is a House hearing going on today called "A Rational Discussion of Climate Change."  You can watch it on C-SPAN3 as I write this.  I'll follow up on this after the hearing.

See yesterday for more information and links.

Here is an interesting replay of a live commenting feed from the hearing.  A lot of running commentary during the hearing (sponsored by the online version of Science magazine) by such people as Gavin Schmidt (RealClimate), Joe Romm (Climate Progress), and a variety of others who signed into the feed.  Very interesting commentary.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Rational Discussion of Climate Change - House Hearing on November 17, 2010

Congress is back in session, and at least one Democratic committee chair is ready for a hearing called "A Rational Discussion of Climate Change: the Science, the Evidence, the Response."  The hearing will be held in the Rayburn House Office Building, Room 2325, from 10:30 am to 12:30 pm, Wednesday, November 17, 2010. It will be interesting to see how rational it is given the lame duck status of Congress.  But the line up of witnesses bears promise as they are mostly prominent scientists and other authorities testifying, mostly on the status of the science and impacts of not taking action.

Witnesses include:

Dr. Ralph Cicerone, President of the National Academy of Sciences

Dr. Heidi Cullen, CEO and Director of Communications at Climate Central

Dr. Gerald Meehl, Senior Scientist in the Climate and Global Dynamics Division at the National Center for Atmospheric Research

Dr. Richard Lindzen, Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences at Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Dr. Benjamin Santer, Atmospheric Scientist in the Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Dr. Richard Alley, Evan Pugh Professor in the Department of Geosciences and an Associate of the Earth and Environmental Systems Institute at Pennsylvania State University

Dr. Richard Feely, Senior Scientist at the Pacific Marine Environment Laboratory of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Rear Admiral David Titley, Oceanographer and Navigator for the United States Department of the Navy, Department of Defense

Mr. James Lopez, Senior Advisor to the Deputy Secretary at the Department of Housing and Urban Development

Mr. William Geer, Director of the Center for Western Lands for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership

Dr. Judith Curry, Chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Institute of Technology

Their written remarks should be posted on the committee web site above once they give testimony.  The committee has already released a PDF of the hearing charter, which summarizes the topics each witness will address.  It also provides some useful background on the state of climate science that I highly recommend everyone read.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Oil will run out 100 years before new fuels are developed

Wondering what to get your kids for Christmas?  How about a science kit so they can develop a new fuel to replace petroleum.  A new study suggests it could make them rich.

Okay, so your kids probably aren't going to discover some new fuel source (or will they?).  But a new study reported in that great science source (Yahoo! News) suggests that we better get started looking for a new source, because we're going to run out of oil long before we find something to replace it.
If the world's oil reserves were the 1.332 trillion barrels they were estimated to be in 2008 and oil consumption was some 85.22 million barrels a day and growing at 1.3 percent a year, oil would be depleted by 2041, says the study published online last week in Environmental Science and Technology.
Then researchers from the University of California at Davis analyzed share prices of 25 oil companies and determined (to no one's surprise) that much more money is put into the conventional energy markets than to renewable or alternative energy markets.  They then "used advanced pricing equations" and calculated that "there would not be a widely available replacement for oil-based fuels before 2140, which, even if the more optimistic date of 2054 for oil depletion is retained."  All of this means that "there could be a nearly 90-year gap when it might be difficult to run a motor vehicle."

The Yahoo! article can be read here.  The original study can be found in the journal, ES&T, is published by the American Chemical Society.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

More Than 1/2 Million Chemical Classification Notifications Received by ECHA

Along with REACH registrations, companies in Europe must notify all their chemicals under the new "European Regulation on Classification, Labelling and Packaging of chemical substances and mixtures" (CLP). The CLP is how the United Nations’ Globally Harmonised System (UN GHS) for classifying and labelling chemicals is being implemented in Europe.  Companies must notify by January 3, 2011, and as of now more than 500,000 notifications have been received by ECHA.

Companies who must register their substances by the fast approaching November 30, 2010  REACH registration deadline will also include CLP classifications, and this meets the obligation to notify.  However, those companies who make substances at lower tonnages and have 2013 or 2018 REACH registration deadlines must still notify under the CLP by January 3, 2011.  In short, "if you are a manufacturer or importer, you must notify hazardous substances that you place on the market on their own or contained in hazardous mixtures above certain applicable concentration limits, regardless of the annual tonnage manufactured or imported, as well as substances subject to registration under REACH and that you place on the market, to the Classification & Labelling Inventory established at the Agency."

More information on the CLP and the upcoming deadlines can be found on the ECHA web site.