Monday, January 3, 2011

It's January 1st, where is California's Green Chemistry Law?

Not in California.  At least not yet.  The California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) has missed the January 1, 2011 deadline for issuing its final Safer Chemical Product Alternatives (SCPA) regulations - aka, the green chemistry regs.  The regulations remained unfinalized in part because of severe criticism that the draft regulations didn't go far enough.  Even the primary legislative sponsor of the green chemistry bill, Assemblyman Mike Fleuer, felt the rules were not strict enough.  Many critics felt the proposed rules had been watered down so much that they would actually reverse progress that had already been made to control chemicals.

The plan is to revisit SCPA this month (or so) and try to beef them up.  One major concern is that the proposed regulations would make it easier for manufacturers to replace chemicals that were identified as harmful with other chemicals in which no determination of safety had even been made at all.  Hardly the best option, as the world is full of examples of unintended consequences when eliminating one hazard without adequate assessment of the substitutes.

So it is back to the drawing board with an eraser and a thicker pencil.  The goal seems to be to "get it right" instead of just get it done by the deadline.  The delay also shifts the burden to the incoming Democratic Governorship of Jerry Brown, though outgoing Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger had also supported the green chemistry initiative.

Whatever form the final SCPA regulations take could have far-reaching ramifications.  As has happened in the past, as California goes, so often go other states and/or federal level regulations.  While certainly not a universal truth, the state does tend to be a trendsetter in this regard, in large part because the size of its economy requires companies that want access to its market must comply or lose out.  And companies much prefer to have one set of rules to live by, not 50 individual sets of (often conflicting) rules.

Happy New Year!

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