Friday, April 8, 2011

Industry Association and Environmental NGO Reactions to Senate Greenhouse Gas Vote - Did They See the Same Vote?

As noted yesterday there were four votes in the Senate on amendments related to climate science.  Senate Democrats narrowly "defeated a Republican effort to ban the Environmental Protection Agency from controlling the gases blamed for global warming." Despite the unlikelihood of it ever becoming law, according to the Washington Post, "the Republican-led House moved Thursday to take away the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases in a vote largely negated by Senate action a day earlier to reject such a repeal." 

Industry and the environmental NGOs had predictably different reactions to the votes.

The American Chemistry Council (ACC), a trade association representing most of the large chemical manufacturers, many of who are impacted by the Clean Air Act mandate for EPA to regulate pollutants, "welcomed signs of growing support in Congress for stopping the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) greenhouse gas (GHG) regulations for stationary sources."  According to their press release:
“We are encouraged by these votes, which signal growing momentum toward stopping EPA’s GHG regulations,” said Cal Dooley, President and CEO of the American Chemistry Council. “Lawmakers from both parties agree this is a critical issue for the country, economic recovery and protecting American jobs. Congress must stop EPA so that business growth and hiring can continue.”

The NGO Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) had a different take on the votes. In EDF's press release, Tony Kreindler accused Congressional Republicans of attempting "to unravel public health protections under the Clean Air Act," and noted that "the amendments are a prelude to further attempts to weaken public health protections as the budget debate continues."  Further:
"Today's votes were an unprecedented assault on public health protections under the Clean Air Act. In 40 years we've never faced such a brazen attempt to rollback air quality standards," said Fred Krupp, president of Environmental Defense Fund. "It remains to be seen which Senators will continue to side with clean air and who will vote to go backward."

Clearly industry and NGOs see this differently.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Senate Narrowly Misses Their Chance to Deny Climate Science

Yesterday there were four votes in the Senate related to climate science.  The amendments were designed to either further limit EPA's ability to do what the Clean Air Act and a Supreme Court decision compelled them to do...complete an endangerment finding and then regulate accordingly greenhouse gases.  In March the Republican-led House voted to deny amendments acknowledging the state of the science.  And yesterday the Senate did essentially the same thing.

Brad Johnson, writing on a left-leaning blog called The Wonk Room describes it this way:
McConnell Amendment: Four pollution-fueled Democrats embraced the “Energy Tax Prevention Act” — the extremist legislation introduced by Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) to literally deny the science of global warming. The Democrats who voted for the McConnell amendment, which failed by a 50-50 vote, were Sen. Mary Landrieu (LA), Joe Manchin (WV), Ben Nelson (NE), and Mark Pryor (AR). In the 2010 cycle, Koch Industries contributed $39,500 to Landrieu, $36,500 to Nelson, and $30,000 to Pryor. Manchin’s 2010 election was fueled by over $500,000 from coal and oil interests.

Rockefeller Amendment: Nine Democrats voted for Sen. Jay Rockefeller’s (D-WV) amendment for a two-year moratorium on climate rules, which failed by a 12-88 vote: Sen. Kent Conrad (ND), Tim Johnson (SD), Landrieu, Manchin, Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Nelson, Pryor, Rockefeller, and Jim Webb (VA).

Stabenow-Brown Amendment: Seven Democrats voted for Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Sen. Sherrod Brown’s (D-OH) amendment to suspend, for 2 years, any Environmental Protection Agency enforcement of greenhouse gas regulations, to exempt American agriculture from greenhouse gas regulations, and to increase the number of companies eligible to participate in the Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credit Program, which failed 7-93: Brown, Robert Casey (PA), Conrad, Amy Klobuchar (MN), Johnson, Pryor, and Stabenow.

Baucus Amendment: Seven Democrats voted for Sen. Max Baucus’s (D-MT) amendment to prohibit the regulation of greenhouse gases from certain sources, which also failed 7-93: Baucus, Mark Begich (AK), Kay Hagan (NC), Carl Levin (MI), Klobuchar, Conrad, and Johnson.
As I've noted here before, it's perfectly acceptable to debate the policy options for dealing with climate change.  But the votes on these amendments, and those earlier in the House, are not on policy options but rather politicians exerting their political veto of science itself.   Regarding climate change, the US National Academies of Sciences last year noted that:

A strong, credible body of scientific evidence shows that climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for a broad range of human and natural systems….
This state of climate science is concurred by very nearly all active climate researchers, the most recent IPCC report, the National Academies of all of the major countries of the world, and pretty much all of the major scientific organizations on the planet.  Every single one of whom concur that the climate is changing and that human activity is the major cause.  The US National Academies even recently called it "settled fact."

And yet, here are both houses of Congress voting to deny the science because they don't want to have to do the hard work of honestly debating policy options to deal with the science.  The political debate should be focused on finding solutions, not denying the science and hog-tying the agency compelled by the science.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

ECHA Provides Tools to Help Chemical Companies Prepare Authorization Applications for REACH

Now that the first deadline for REACH registration has passed, and responsible parties at registering companies have had a chance to take a vacation and catch up on other work, it's time for some companies to turn their attention to the "A" in REACH - Authorization.  And the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has now provided some tools to help companies do just that.

Authorization, of course, is the part of REACH where ECHA has determined that a particular "substance of very high concern" presents too great a risk and therefore intends to remove it from commerce.  Manufacturers of those chemicals put onto Annex XIV of REACH, the authorization list, must apply to receive authorization to continue using the chemical.  If no authorization is granted the chemical will be banned from commerce in the EU at the end of the specified sunset perios, which for the handful of chemicals added so far is 2014 or 2015.  If authorized, the chemical would be limited to uses that are critical and can be controlled, and where there are no available substitutes, and for only a limited period of time allotted to find or develop a substitute.

The new tools include "templates to document an analysis of alternatives, a socio-economic analysis and a substitution plan."   There is also a "Fee Calculator" to estimate how much it will cost to submit their application (but not how much to prepare the application). There are also a new Data Submission Manual that "explains in detail how to prepare an Application for Authorisation using IUCLID 5.3, and how to use the web forms for dossier submission."

More information is available on the ECHA web site.

Guidance on how to prepare the authorization application can be downloaded as a PDF here.

Guidance on how to prepare the socio-economic analysis can be downloaded as a PDF here.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Chemical Review Committee Recommends Six Additions to Rotterdam Convention PIC List of Hazardous Substances

Six new chemicals were recommended to be added to the Rotterdam Convention list of hazardous substances subject to prior informed consent (PIC) proceedings before shipment.  These recommendations were made by the Chemical Review Committee during meetings held in Rome on March 28-April 1.  The PIC procedure provides all Parties with an opportunity to make informed decisions as to whether they will consent to future imports of the chemicals listed in Annex III of the Convention.

The six chemicals recommended for listing include three pesticides (endosulfan, azinphos methyl, and Gramoxone Super) and three industrial chemicals (perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), its salts, and precursors; pentabromodiphenyl ether (penta-BDE) commercial mixtures; and octabromodiphenyl ether (octa-BDE) commercial mixtures).  If approved by the conference of parties, the chemicals would be added to the Annex III list of controlled substances.  The next conference of the parties to the Rotterdam Convention will be held in Geneva, Switzerland on June 20-24, 2011.

More information about the Rotterdam Convention can be found here

As with other international agreements, the United States signed on to the agreement but has never ratified it.  Thus the US is relegated to offering opinions as an observer but has no voting rights.  Ironically, Jim Willis, the Chemical Control Division Director at EPA, is about to move to Geneva to take over as Executive Secretary for the Rotterdam, Stockholm and Basel Conventions.  

The article here talks about how the Rotterdam Convention and Prior Informed Consent fits into recent discussions on TSCA chemical reform in the US.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Democratic Congressman Waxman Requests PBT Data from Chemical Companies

Democratic Representative Henry A. Waxman (CA), who is Ranking Member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, is asking chemical manufacturers to provide information on "the production of chemicals that are persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic (PBT’s)."  Waxman, along with Illionios Congressman Bobby Rush, introduced the House's version of the TSCA reform legislation in 2010.  Since those bills died at the end of the last Congress with no action, and little prospect of the Republican-led House introducing bill this year, Waxman seems intent on keeping the pressure on the chemical industry to reveal data.  According to the press release on the minority site for the House Committee on Energy & Commerce, Waxman states:

“These chemicals are of particular concern.  We need better information from manufacturers to understand what is already being done to protect the American people, and what more may need to be done through modernization of the Toxic Substances Control Act.”

PBTs are "highly resistant to degradation in the environment," "build up in the food chain and in the human body," and "cause adverse health effects in exposed individuals."  These persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic properties have been used by the EPA and other jurisdictions (including Canada and the EU) to prioritize chemicals of greatest concern for closer evaluation.

Waxman sent letters to the CEOs of 15 major chemical manufacturers, including 3M, DuPont, BASF, Huntsman, Chevron, PPG, and others requesting information on what they are doing to determine if a chemical they plan to start producing is a PBT, and if so, whether they would continue to develop the chemical for production.  He also asked what companies are doing to determine if existing chemicals they already produce are PBT, and if so, whether they plan to continue production.  In both cases, if the decision is to continue to place the PBT chemical on the market, what steps are they taking to adequately address "the risks posed by the chemical."

Rep. Waxman indicated that he "would appreciate a response to these questions no later than April 22, 2011."