Friday, April 22, 2011

States Offer Their Reaction to Lautenberg's Safe Chemical Act

Last week Senator Frank Lautenberg introduced the 2011 version of his Safe Chemicals Act.  I have already given an introduction of the bill, the NGO reaction and Industry reaction.  Today we take a look at the reaction from the states.  On Wednesday the heads of the environmental protection agencies of several states issued a group press release commending Lautenberg "for introducing comprehensive legislation that reforms the 35-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)."  They represent the states of California, Illinois, Oregon, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington.

Overall, the states were very supportive...and in fact, very demanding...of a federal level modernization of TSCA.  According to Ted Sturdevant, Director of the Washington State Department of Ecology:

"We need a fix at the federal level so that we don’t have to do this in the states. States have limited resources and lack the tools of federal agencies to drive a national program. However, until we have a national solution, we will continue to act on chemical safety concerns in our states."

Like Washington State, California has been trying to deal with toxic chemical issues in the absence of an adequate federal law.  According to Linda Adams, Secretary of California EPA:

“In the absence of a unifying approach, interest groups and policy makers have been attempting to take these issues on one-by-one. We need a coordinated, comprehensive national strategy.  As we work toward these national reforms, California will continue to move ahead with its comprehensive green chemistry policy.”

Regulators in other states chimed in with similar stories.  All of them support a modernized TSCA that would, among other things:

  • Give EPA the authority to establish chemical safety standards and to take risk management actions when chemicals fail to meet those standards. 
  • Shift the burden to industry to demonstrate that chemicals meet safety standards.
  • Make available to the public more data and information now claimed as confidential.
  • Permit the sharing of confidential information with state regulators.
  • Provide for an enhanced state role in implementing the federal law and improved state/federal coordination.
More information on states' reaction to the Lautenberg bill can be found in the combined press release (e.g., this one from the State of Maryland).

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Industry Reaction to Lautenberg's Latest Iteration of Safe Chemicals Act

Last week I noted that Senator Frank Lautenberg introduced his Safe Chemicals Act of 2011, which is an updated version of the bill he introduced in the last Congress.  It incorporates much of the feedback received from a wide variety of stakeholders last year.  On Tuesday I provided some of the initial reactions from NGOs, most notably from Richard Denison of EDF.  Denison hoped that this bill would be a starting point for serious discussions that would lead to modernization of the 35-year old TSCA law.  Today I note some of the industry reactions to Lautenberg's bill.

The American Chemistry Council (ACC), which represents most of the largest chemical manufacturers in the country, offered a mixed early reaction.  According to ACC President Cal Dooley:

ACC supported many of the goals and objectives of the senator's legislation in the last Congress, but his earlier proposal was inconsistent with the principles that we have set out for a successful TSCA modernization in several important respects. Further, the bill contained provisions that would not have produced the benefits intended by its authors. Unfortunately, it appears many of our concerns have not been addressed in this new version, and the bill introduced today could put American innovation and jobs at risk.

The Consumer Specialty Products Association (CSPA) also felt that the bill was an improvement but that it still left many concerns unanswered.  According to CSPA President Chris Cathcart:

The new bill introduced today moves in the right direction as it seeks to adopt important concepts of prioritization and tiered minimum data set requirements.  These two elements, along with the preservation of a risk based system, are essential components of any workable regulatory framework under TSCA.  However, we remain concerned about other sections of the bill, including its approach on Reporting and Declarations, the protection of confidential business information (CBI) and the safety standard. A bi-partisan dialogue can resolve these issues.

The industry/free market advocacy group American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) made no pretense of liking parts of the bill, with its President Elizabeth Whelan asserting:

This law is based on the premise that trace level exposure to chemicals is hazardous to health. Sen. Lautenberg is trying to ‘protect’ us from these chemicals, but there’s absolutely no evidence they have harmed humans or the environment.
The National Petrochemical & Refiners Association (NPRA) seemed more concerned over the bills impact on the economy than health and safety.  According to NPRA President Charles Drevna:

NPRA acknowledges Senator Lautenberg's efforts to exclude chemical mixtures from certain requirements and to incorporate some risk-based parameters into the proposed regulatory process. The draft bill, however, would give EPA unprecedented authority over the American economy, allowing the agency to make decisions on what materials can and cannot be used in manufacturing without requiring scientific justification for those decisions. The bill would also give EPA greater authority to force companies to spend enormous sums of money on animal testing, regardless of the likelihood or extent of potential human exposure to particular materials. 

So what next? It seems that both NGOs and industry see improvement over last year's version of Lautenberg's bill, but will there be a willingness to move forward on the common ground established in an effort to actually put a TSCA reform bill into law?

The ball is in the middle of the court.  Now we have to wait to see if any team wants to show up and play.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Is the Lautenberg Safe Chemicals Act A Jump Start on Serious Discussions About TSCA Reform?

As I noted last week, Senator Frank Lautenberg has introduced the 2011 version of his Safe Chemicals Act.  The question at that time was whether the bill would end up in the same place as the 2010 bill, that is, nowhere.  Some, but not all, industry organizations found positive changes made in the bill.  Now at least one NGO is hoping that the changes will jump start serious discussions and engage industry in finding a path forward for what all parties agree is a need to reform the 35 year old Toxic Substances Control Act.

Richard Denison of the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has expressed his hope that "this bill, with its enhancements, will push the reset button on the stalled discussion over TSCA reform, and bring all of the parties to the table for an honest dialogue on how we can finally bring this vital law into the modern era."  He further states:
It is in everyone’s interest – health advocates and industry alike – to restore market, consumer and public confidence in the safety of chemicals.

Denison offers the following highlights of the changes made in the new bill:
  • It establishes an orderly process that categorizes chemicals into high-, some- and low-concern classes and directs those chemicals along specific paths of action.
  • It requires expedited action be taken to reduce exposure to chemicals of high concern – those that are persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT) to which people are exposed.
  • It calls for EPA to identify and prioritize chemicals requiring safety determinations, and tie the pace of that activity to EPA’s capacity to expeditiously make these needed determinations.
  • It clarifies that EPA would tailor minimum data requirements to different types or classes of chemicals, while still ensuring that basic safety information is provided in a timely manner for all chemicals.
  • It clarifies that States receiving confidential business information (CBI) must have an agreement in place to ensure the information is kept confidential.
  • It ensures that State governments have a right to take actions that are different from or in addition to those under TSCA, unless compliance with both the TSCA and the State requirement or standard is impossible.
He has even put together a handy table providing a "side-by-side" comparison of the 2010 and 2011 versions of the bill.

So will this bill stimulate some honest discussion? While Denison and others hope so, it seems unlikely in this divided Congress with a critical presidential and congressional election already looming in the minds of incumbents and contenders alike.  Especially since there is a good chance the Senate will switch parties next year.  Still, since all parties agree that change is needed, it will be interesting to see if they put in a serious effort or just give it lip service.

Monday, April 18, 2011

ECHA REACH News - Companies Must Notify Substances of Very High Concern by June 1, 2011

For those who thought their REACH obligations were over after diligently registering their substances last fall and notifying their classifications by January...wrong.  ECHA has issued a press release reminding companies that they must notify the Agency "if any Substance of Very High Concern (SVHC) included on the candidate lists is present in their articles above the threshold of 0.1% weight by weight and if the quantity of such substance in those articles is over 1 tonne per producer/importer per year."

The Candidate List is a list of substances that have been officially identified as being of very high concern due to their hazardous properties in relation to the environment and/or human health. Companies will have to notify ECHA of the presence of such a substance in their articles not later than 6 months after the inclusion of such a substance in the Candidate List. For those substances included in the Candidate List by 1 December 2010, the relevant notifications have to be submitted not later than 1 June 2011. 
ECHA recently updated their online submission tool REACH-IT to allow the submission of notifications for substances in articles. They have also prepared a new Data Submission Manual for substances in articles, which can be downloaded as a PDF file here.

More information about the deadline and requirements can be found on the ECHA web site.