In his keynote speech to industry professionals at last week’s GlobalChem conference, Jim Jones, the acting head of EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, said that the key to updating the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) is to find common ground. But the search for common ground won’t be advanced by continuing to resort to hyperbole and caricature rather than trying to engage in constructive dialogue.
GlobalChem is the industry’s annual program to bring together the professionals responsible for chemical management. It’s a forum to discuss developments, understand new regulatory initiatives, and network on new approaches. And while we want to continue to work with activist groups to improve the regulation of chemicals, some of these groups have seen fit to fall back on old tactics by resorting to sardonic blog posts about our conference and our efforts to find a constructive path forward.
There is no question that common ground is hard real estate to find in Washington. As Jim Jones pointed out, issues as complex as TSCA reform rarely get settled as quickly as anyone would like. Still, we believe there are real opportunities right in front of us through which we can begin to take concrete steps to improve TSCA.
The truth is, we have made progress as a direct result of working together, rather than against each other. Much more can yet be accomplished.
ACC’s commitment to chemicals management reform
Over three years ago, ACC published a set of principles for TSCA modernization as one step toward a constructive approach to chemicals management reform. Even before that, ACC was active in discussing TSCA with President Obama’s transition team, and we have followed that discussion with periodic meetings with EPA, encouraging scientifically-based positions from the Administration to help promote thoughtful, effective reform.
Since then, we have worked closely with our industry partners, members of Congress and other stakeholders to identify key issues and to better understand each other’s viewpoints. In 2010, ACC was one of several stakeholder groups discussing the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s draft of legislation to modify TSCA. We not only participated in every one of the eight individual discussion sessions, we submitted over 40 pages of written comments on concepts in the draft and suggestions for appropriate revisions.
We have been active participants in the stakeholder dialogue sessions convened by Senators Lautenberg and Inhofe in mid-2011 to discuss specific provisions of Senator Lautenberg’s TSCA proposal. ACC brought experts in toxicology, risk assessment and TSCA law and policy to those meetings and to meetings with other Congressional offices in an attempt to educate staff and Members about our views of the complexities of chemical assessment, regulation and commerce. And beyond our principles, we offered specific and detailed proposals on how to improve TSCA.
ACC and EPA have found common ground on improving TSCA
At this year’s GlobalChem, EPA officials appropriately noted their “groundbreaking work” under the New Chemicals program. They addressed the Agency’s plans to focus on improving an area of TSCA that requires the most work – existing chemicals. Specifically, EPA representatives said they would focus on gathering data, screening chemicals and providing information to the public.
ACC has supported EPA’s effort to improve the information in the Agency’s database on the chemical inventory. We even found some common ground with the Agency on improvements to the new Chemical Data Reporting (CDR) rule.
We’re encouraged by a chemicals prioritization system the Agency recently introduced, which takes a risk-based approach to help determine which existing chemicals warrant additional review and those that that do not. Last year, ACC offered a detailed proposal for prioritizing chemicals in commerce for additional review. It appears the Agency found many of our recommendations useful.
We also recently offered a proposal to EPA that would help the Agency provide important health and safety data to the public without exposing sensitive information to competitors. One has to look no further than today’s front page article in the Wall Street Journal to see what lengths competitors will go to in order to obtain intellectual property from our industry. It was encouraging to hear Jim Jones echo our belief that health and safety data should be public and trade secrets should be protected.
A sweet spot for chemicals management
Building off the concept of finding common ground, Jones added in his GlobalChem address that there is a “sweet spot” for chemicals management reform that will protect human health and allow the U.S. chemical industry be a leader in developing new, innovative solutions to pressing challenges, while also supporting the economy and creating jobs.
GlobalChem provided an opportunity for EPA and industry stakeholders to outline their respective policy positions. It’s clear that there is a high level of mutual response and understanding, even if we don’t agree on all the details. While some may look to continue to cast aspersions, we are committed to continue the effort to work with Congress, the EPA and other stakeholders to find the regulatory sweet spot for moving TSCA forward.