Viewing blog posts written by Gino DiCaro

Mercurial legislature ignores three years of hard work

Posted by Gino DiCaro, VP, Communications on Aug. 30, 2011

Three years ago, California legislators did something politicians are seldom brave enough to do: they recognized their limitations and gave away some of their power.

In passing landmark green chemistry laws, lawmakers admitted that they were no match for scientists when it came to sorting through the data, analyzing alternatives and making a rational chemicals management policy. Under the new laws, that would be left to scientists and regulators at the Department of Toxic Substances Control.

It was a truly courageous move. If only they’d meant it.

As the DTSC nears the end of three years of public hearings, written comments, sub-committee meetings and reports, and is about to release proposed green chemistry regulations, the Legislature appears poised to step back into the business of making chemical policy on their own.

In these closing days of the legislative session, the Legislature passed a measure that had failed in the previous two sessions.  AB 1319 bans the use of Bisphenol-A (BPA), a safety epoxy used in plastic products to protect food against the spread of salmonella and other bacteria.

Never mind that a United States Environmental Protection Agency report found no risks associated with BPA. Never mind that no better alternatives have been identified to perform the functions BPA does in making products safer. Never mind that this – chemical policy written not by chemists but by politicians – is precisely what the green chemistry laws of 2008 were created to prevent.

The urge to re-insert themselves doesn’t end there. Another bill, AB 913, a last-minute gut-and-amend in the closing weeks of the session, disregards promising efforts to establish clear, thoroughly vetted regulations. The bill's language and outcome remain uncertain, but again we ask, why?

California is fond of being first in the country to pass groundbreaking laws. Unfortunately, it’s also become very fond of enacting new laws to undercut the hard work and progress made by the original laws. This tendency as much as any, is part of the reason businesses – and even consumers – get very nervous about making long-term investments in our state.

Let's hope Governor Jerry Brown prefers science and process over politicians and platitudes, and vetoes the BPA-ban bill. And let's trust that all future green chemistry matters are settled within the organized structure that was built to deal with such things.

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California shoulders two leviathan programs as October closes

Posted by Gino DiCaro, VP, Communications on Oct. 29, 2010

I'll resist the simple trick-or-treat joke here, mostly because these two new costly programs require a very serious tone.

Today the California Air Resources Board released its proposed cap-and-trade program. On Monday the Department of Toxics and Substance Control tries to finalize the regulations for its Green Chemistry program. Both heap enormous new costs on our economy. The former creates large energy price increases. The latter will increase costs on consumer products that use any one of thousands of chemicals subject to review under disturbingly vague guidelines. This means prices will rise on virtually any product the DTSC chooses to focus on -- assuming you can still find the product in California.

Both programs will exist only in California, making the entire state even less competitive. In both cases, the programs are claimed to have at least neutral affects on our economy, although no proof has been offered. In the case of the cap-and-trade program, it has been held up as an economy and job booster. This is the first time I've seen government regulation used as an overall economic development strategy.

Both are well intended noble ideas but lack proper analysis to prove that either of the California-only programs are going in the right direction environmentally or economically. Both have only succeeded so far in creating grand press releases. The scientific rigor that must accompany such groundbreaking mandates, including an understanding of the costs of government regulation, has been non-existent.

The cap-n-trade program puts at risk California's enormous and country-leading energy efficiency gains by ensuring that new investments pop up in other states under less stringent environmental laws. This works against the original goal of AB 32 to reduce global warming emissions and it works against the 2.2 million unemployed Californians.  And on the subject of the cost of some of the technologies, Todd Woody of the New York Times summed up one technology yesterday:

"But this first wave (of solar farms) may very well be the last for a long time, according to industry executives. Without continued government incentives that vastly reduce the risks to investors, solar companies planning another dozen or so plants say they may not be able to raise enough capital to proceed."
The Green Chemistry program is basically asking consumers and employees to "trust us" with literally no independent review and an unsubstantiated rush to get the regulation implemented. By the time we know the consequences, the people writing the press releases will be gone. A number of leaders in green chemistry practices have warned the DTSC that their proposed rules are dangerously ambiguous and will have far-reaching effects beyond what is intended. An executive with Life Technologies -- a biotechnology tools company -- even testified before a Cal EPA hearing this week that the proposed green chemistry regulations threaten their H1N1 detection kits, forensic crime kits and tools to determine genetic diseases.

On Thursday of this week the Little Hoover Commission conducted its first hearing to begin tackling California's overall system for making regulations. Coming out of that hearing was the utmost concern that California passes laws, immediately gives agencies free reign with no accountability to make rules (and fees), and provides limited ability to look back at the effectiveness of these regulations. Our global warming law, AB 32, does provide the Governor with the ability to suspend for up to a year but it is simply not enough.

The key is independent peer review as these regulations become reality. Why are we so afraid of this? Cost-effectiveness and technological feasibility must be our beacon.

I submit these two leviathan regulatory programs, among many others, for the state to dissect as they take on our regulatory rule making and accountability process.

These two programs, as written, basically slam the door on many of the investments that California needs so badly. We just need to slow down and get them right.

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The nobility of CA's 'green chemistry' program deserves careful, scientific regulation

Posted by Gino DiCaro, VP, Communications on Aug. 25, 2010

If you haven't heard of California's 'Green Chemistry' Initiative, you will soon.  It is a bold step that has the potential to change the way we approach chemicals in consumer products.  It also has the potential to further hamstring California’s struggling economy, drive jobs from the state and raise consumer prices.  So, it’s an issue worth our attention.

In a nutshell, the 'Green Chemistry Initiative' is a California-only endeavor to identify and regulate “chemicals of concern” in consumer products made or sold in California.  It would regulate alongside existing oversight by the FDA, EPA, Prop. 65 and many others. The Department of Toxic Substance Control is now finalizing the regulations to make this plan a reality.

These rules will determine whether the initiative enhances consumer safety, inspires innovation and triggers new investment, or whether it delivers only increased costs, lost jobs and crippling new burdens on manufacturers and business in California.

The Green Chemistry effort is a worthy effort and it has had the support and participation of many of California’s leading employers and manufacturers.  We’re involved because the initiative is simply too important for regulators to get wrong. If California is going to set the example and put its economy at risk, the program must be done right.  This means not succumbing to pressure from environmental activists and insisting on regulations built around balance and science.

For a better read from an expert, Dawn Sanders-Koepke, co-chair of the Green Chemistry Alliance, raised excellent points in this weekend's op-ed in the Sacramento Bee.   You can also see the Alliance's letter and regulatory comments sent to DTSC on the regulations here.

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Question of the month: How much should the tax be on hazardous chemicals produced, used or distributed in California?

Posted by Gino DiCaro, VP, Communications on May 6, 2008

This was the first of eleven questions posed to industry and others for the final phase of the California Department of Toxics and Substance Control's "Green Chemistry" Initiative.  The agency is looking to regulate, tax, penalize and otherwise oversee thousands of chemicals and products  -- many of which have not been scientifically proven to be, in fact, hazardous.

Last month, DTSC sent out these questions to be answered prior to April 30th.   We have one question for DTSC now that we answered theirs:  What exactly makes a chemical hazardous in their minds, and in what application? ....  Sorry, one more.  What science is there to prove that the alternatives are better?

DTSC has an enormous undertaking with this initiative and the effort is commendable but, just as we answered their difficult questions, they should answer ours.  Before we start asking if and how much we should tax and penalize, we should know exactly what hazard we're taxing.  


DTSC's 11 questions:

1. How much should the tax be on hazardous chemicals produced, used, or distributed in California?

2. What information would trigger a ban of a chemical by the state of California?

3. What incentives should the state of California provide to promote the development of safer chemical or product alternatives?

4. What would be the appropriate response by the state of California for failure to use safer alternatives?

5. What would be the appropriate response by the state of California for failure to disclose product ingredients?

6. By what date should the state of California require reusable or biodegradable non-petroleum based packaging?

7. How can industry use a multi-media standard, such as ISO 14000, to demonstrate they achieve performance above and beyond compliance with regulatory standards for product and processes?

8. What lines of scientific data (in vitro toxicity and other relevant properties) should the state of California consider and use for decision-making in the absence of traditional animal toxicity data?

9. What criteria should the State of California require as part of alternatives assessment by industry in determining which products are safer/greener?

10. How should the State of California use data (generated by others) in the chemical matrix for deciding which products are safe?

11. If third party life cycle analyses are required for specific products or materials, what State Agency, e.g. Department of Consumer Affairs, should be responsible for certifying or authorizing individuals to perform them?

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