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GlobalChem and the road ahead: Why this year’s conference marks the halfway point for one of the most transformative decades for the industry and regulations

ACC Vice President of Regulatory and Technical Affairs Mike Walls kicked off Tuesday’s GlobalChem regulatory conference with a prediction: “Ten years from now,” Walls said, “We will look back at 2015 as the inflection point in one of the most transformative decades for shaping chemical policy.”

If you think about it, it’s easy to see where he’s coming from—all you have to do is take a look at how far we’ve come in last five years.

U.S. manufacturing renaissance is in the making

The new economics of shale gas have been a game changer for the U.S. business of chemistry over the last five years. Our input costs are at historical lows. Demand is up for goods derived from chemicals, especially in international markets. We have a huge competitive advantage in the global marketplace. And companies from all over the world are committed to investing billions of dollars to be a part of our success story.

On this point, we can let the numbers speak for themselves. Chemical manufacturers to date have announced plans for 225 shale-related projects representing more than $137 billion in capital investments. Fully 60 percent is foreign direct investment. That translates to billions of dollars in new chemical industry output, hundreds of thousands of permanent new jobs, and soaring export growth over the next fifteen years as the new projects come online.

Just ten years ago, we would never have dreamed of this significant potential for economic growth.

Chemical regulations are on the cusp of modernization

Shale gas is just one come-from-behind economic story. Let’s look at how far we have come in the last five years on the regulatory front.

After several productive years of working together, Congress is on the cusp of bringing our country’s nearly 40-year-old chemicals management law into the 21st century.

Thanks to leadership of the late Senator Frank Lautenberg, Senators David Vitter, and Tom Udall, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, and Congressman John Shimkus, there is a rare bipartisan opportunity on the table to pass strong and meaningful legislation to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

Partnerships at home and abroad can guide further progress

We’ve seen how partnerships have brought us closer to TSCA reform, but partnerships are also transforming our relationship with EPA and other governments.

The U.S.-Canada Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC) is a prime example of what regulatory cooperation in action can look like. Although it is still in the early stages, representatives from the Canadian and U.S. governments have identified several areas where regulatory improvements and efficiencies between the countries may exist. The initiative has been very promising so far, and it is focusing on highly relevant issues—from discussions on nanotechnology regulations, containment standards for dangerous goods, classification, and labeling requirements to air quality standards and chemicals management.

To help advance this effort, several ACC member companies have volunteered several chemicals as case studies in the risk assessment work plan EPA, Health Canada, and Environment Canada are developing. This cooperation marks the beginning of what could become a long-term working relationship to enhance information sharing, eliminate inefficiencies like duplicative testing, and establish a framework for common approaches to risk assessment.

Chemical safety science is now at the cutting edge of technology

The U.S. has also come a long way in advancing science and research in cutting edge technologies, including their possible application in risk assessment and regulation. For example, our industry has made a significant investment in science and technology through the Long-Range Research Initiative (LRI).

The LRI is a global partnership designed to identify and fill gaps in our understanding about the safety of chemicals and to improve our current methods for assessing their hazard and risk. A core part of the LRI’s mission is to support high-quality science that can inform effective decision-making by industry and at all levels of government.

The LRI program provides a basis for enhanced collaboration among industry and academics, government agencies and NGOs, and regulatory decision-makers around the world. By generating high-quality data quicker and more effectively and by strengthening partnerships between industry and government, programs like the LRI are helping to drive the effort to bring regulations and regulatory decision-making into the 21st century.

Global unified progress taking place in sound chemicals management

Partnerships within the chemical industry also extend far across the globe. The International Council of Chemical Associations (ICCA) is playing a major role right now in promoting and enhancing sound chemicals management as part of their commitment to the United Nation’s Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM). ACC is proud to be working with other stakeholders, such as the U.N. Environment Programme, to help countries that currently lack the capacity to manage chemicals safely.

ACC is also reaching out to chemical companies across the globe to encourage them to demonstrate their commitment to the safe management of chemicals throughout their lifecycle by signing the Responsible Care® Global Charter—a CEO-level commitment to continued improvement in environment, health, and safety.

U.S. trade agenda can drive further economic and regulatory enhancements

Regulatory cooperation can enhance how chemicals are managed in the U.S. and abroad, while ensuring that communities around the globe benefit from the life-enhancing innovations that chemistry provides.

Cooperation can reduce costs for governments and industry, speed up the pace of chemical assessments, help make policy and public health decisions more efficient and more effective, and maintain high human health and environmental standards.

Some of the best opportunities to accomplish this feat are within our reach today. The Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) have the potential to boost exports and break down barriers for our industry and the entire manufacturing sector in both Europe and the Asia-Pacific region.

The road to 2020: Doing what chemistry does best

Virtually everywhere we look, we can find progress toward developing a comprehensive, unified, world-class approach to managing chemicals in commerce. Such a bold effort doesn’t come easy, and it certainly doesn’t come as fast as we all might like. But remember where we were five years ago—then think about where we will be five years from now. The outlook is very encouraging for all stakeholders.

Science and regulation are advancing as never before. Chemical production is booming, and new jobs and economic opportunities beckon from just over the horizon.

And by working together, we can shape chemical policy and our industry for years to come.

You can read Mr. Walls’ full remarks from GlobalChem here.

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