December 10th, 2013
Although there has been no reported progress on Senate attempts to amend the Chemical Safety Improvement Act (CSIA) since last month’s update, the American Chemistry Council (ACC) weighed in last week with confidence that legislation to reform the United States’ outdated Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) could pass before the 2014 elections. ACC President Cal Dooley told a press briefing: “There continues to build momentum that could result in enactment of CSIA or some version thereof prior to the November elections.”
The ACC, the major trade group representing chemical and plastics companies, has supported the CSIA since its introduction in May. Despite bipartisan support and backing from industry and some environmental groups, the CSIA has been strongly criticized by key Democrats, including Senate Environment and Public Works Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA), and a large coalition of environmental and public health groups. In response, the CSIA is quietly [ Read the full article...]
December 6th, 2013
Last month, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) ruled on a relatively rare Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) enforcement case, ordering Elementis Chromium to pay a $2.57 million penalty for violating TSCA § 8(e), a provision of the law that required the company to disclose information about serious health risks. The ALJ found that Elementis Chromium, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of chromium chemicals, failed to notify EPA of a study finding substantial risk of injury to human health from exposure to hexavalent chromium.
The November 12, 2013 decision [PDF] is the latest development in an enforcement action that EPA initiated in 2010. At issue in the case was an industry-backed study documenting health impacts – including increased cancer risks – on workers in chromium processing plants: EPA contended that the study filled a “data gap” in the literature, while Elementis argued, among other defenses, that EPA was [ Read the full article...]
December 4th, 2013
In one week in November, the House of Representatives voted to pass three energy bills (H.R. 2728, H.R. 1900, and H.R. 1965) simultaneously introduced by House Republicans to facilitate oil and gas development. Notably, Rep. Bill Flores’ (R-TX) bill, H.R. 2728, would block the Department of the Interior (DOI) from regulating hydraulic fracturing, known as “fracking,” on public lands in states that already have their own fracking regulations in place. The bill is expected to be defeated in the Senate.
Republicans said that states have safely and effectively regulated fracking for decades, and that the Obama administration has shown no evidence proving otherwise. House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA) called federal regulation of fracking “redundant” and a waste of time and money that would slow down energy production and job creation. On the other hand, Democrats said that passing the bill would increase the [ Read the full article...]
December 4th, 2013
Scientists representing both sides of the Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs) debate have agreed that thresholds for activity of EDCs may not exist. The conclusion is one of several reached during a recent meeting hosted by European Union (EU) chief scientific advisor Anne Glover in an attempt to identify areas of consensus and disagreement on the subject.
In the published minutes [PDF] of the meeting, the scientists say uncertainty about the existence of EDC activity thresholds—the exposure level or dose of a chemical above which toxicity or adverse health effects can occur—is due to experimental constraints and limited understanding of biological systems. They also agreed that defining EDC thresholds by in vivo experiments alone is not possible. Rather, establishing whether thresholds exist must be defined by better understanding “the mechanisms of action in a quantitative systems approach.”
The scientists also agreed with the World Health Organization’s 2002 definition [ Read the full article...]
November 21st, 2013
Last week, U.S. and European Union (EU) negotiators held a second round of Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) discussions. During the week-long talks, negotiators examined how to reduce regulatory and industry costs for chemicals.
According to U.S. TTIP chief negotiator Dan Mullaney, a range of tools are available to reduce costs for chemicals and other sectors. Ignacio Garcia Bercero, the EU’s chief negotiator, said specific ideas for cost reduction include harmonization of labeling requirements and better cooperation between the EPA and ECHA in performing risk assessment and exchanging data to avoid unnecessary testing. Bercero said the European and U.S. negotiating teams also discussed regulatory compatibility for cosmetics. Negotiators considered the feasibility of achieving “greater convergence” between the positive and negative lists of cosmetic ingredients in the EU and the U.S., which may be difficult since the U.S. allows certain cosmetic ingredients that are prohibited in [ Read the full article...]
November 19th, 2013
As we reported last week, the House Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy held a hearing to review the Chemical Safety Improvement Act (S. 1009) (CSIA) on November 13, 2013. At the hearing, EPA for the first time revealed its views on a number of CSIA provisions, although it has not developed a formal position on the Act.
Jim Jones, EPA assistant administrator of the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, was among the ten witnesses who testified at the hearing. During the questioning period of the hearing, Jones identified areas of CSIA that were improvements over TSCA, such as the requirement under Section 5 for an affirmative finding of safety by EPA on new chemical notifications, the ability to use order authority under Section 4 to obtain testing, and the ability to share confidential business information (CBI) with states.
Jones also identified issues that warranted further [ Read the full article...]
November 14th, 2013
California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) is currently accepting applications to serve on the Green Ribbon Science Panel. Members of the Panel come from both the private and public sectors and are experts in a variety of fields, including chemistry, public health, risk analysis, and materials science. The Panel draws on its scientific and technical expertise in advising the DTSC as well as the California Environmental Policy Council on various green chemistry and chemicals policy issues. The first Panel was assembled in 2009 and advised DTSC on developing the Safer Consumer Products regulations which just went into effect last month. Moving forward, the new Green Ribbon Science Panel will address implementation of the Safer Consumer Products program.
The deadline for applications is this Friday, November 15, 2013.
November 12th, 2013
Congress continues to make progress in addressing concerns about the Chemical Safety Improvement Act (CSIA), with one congressional aide close to the process telling ChemicalWatch last week that “all the concerns and issues are solvable.” However, industry and NGO sources say the remaining issues that need to be dealt with make it unlikely that the TSCA reform bill will pass before the end of this year.
The CSIA is currently before the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, chaired by Barbara Boxer (D-CA). In August, Sen. Boxer dropped her opposition to the CSIA and promoted “fast-tracking” the compromise bill. However, Sen. Boxer has said that the bipartisan bill can move forward only if the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) is amended to incorporate some “basic principles” such as specific protection for vulnerable populations, more definite time frames for EPA action, and holding all responsible parties accountable [ Read the full article...]
November 12th, 2013
In a recent court filing, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) defended its decision not to provide a de minimis exception for uses of “conflict minerals” in its rules [PDF] implementing the Conflict Minerals Statutory Provision (Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act). The rules require companies to disclose whether designated “conflict minerals” in their products originated in the Democratic Republic of the Congo or nine adjoining countries, and could potentially affect manufacturers who use conflict minerals as catalysts or in a similar manner in another process.
Business groups which had previously sought a de minimis exception, including the National Association of Manufacturers, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable, challenged the rule in a lawsuit filed last year in October. The groups argued that the SEC did not fully consider the rule’s economic consequences as required by the Exchange Act, [ Read the full article...]
November 6th, 2013
Last week, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced enforcement actions against six companies for misleading and unsubstantiated environmental marketing claims. Five of the enforcement actions concern biodegradability claims for plastics, while the sixth relates to a company’s alleged violation of a consent order prohibiting making green claims for its paper plates and bags. These actions follow FTC’s July settlements with three mattress manufacturers regarding unsupported “VOC-free” claims. Together, these cases demonstrate that the FTC highly prioritizes ensuring compliance with its revised Green Guides, the Commission’s guidelines for how companies should properly make environmental claims, and sheds some light on how FTC interprets some of the Green Guides’ provisions.
This marks the first time the FTC has addressed claims for biodegradable plastic. In the plastics matters, FTC has filed complaints and proposed consent orders against four companies that make various plastic products – ranging from golf tees to [ Read the full article...]