“Green Chemistry” Forum Report

By CMTA Staff

Capitol Update, May 19, 2006 Share this on FacebookTweet thisEmail this to a friend

On May 10, the Chemical Industry Council (CIC) and the American Chemistry Council (ACC) sponsored a Green Chemistry Forum in Los Angeles which CMTA co-sponsored.  The primary topic was a recently released report commissioned two years ago by the California Senate Environmental Quality Committee and prepared by the California Policy Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley.

There were four speakers on the program and an industry panel.  The first speaker, Dr. Michael Wilson of the University of California , was the principle author of the report.  He recommended the development of a chemical reporting system to close the data gap, expansion of regulatory authority and a new state agency for decision-making authority.  He encouraged market incentives and government support for green chemistry research, development, technical assistance and education.  He also recommended the establishment of a chemicals policy task force to explore various mechanisms and develop a legislative proposal for a comprehensive policy.

Robert Donkers, the European Union’s (EU’s) environmental counselor to the U.S., explained the EU’s Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals program (REACH) initiative, scheduled to go into effect in July 2006.  Donker’s mission in this country is to sell the U.S. on adopting the EU’s REACH approach.  This initiative will require chemical producers to register most chemicals that are widely used and will place restrictions on the use of about 1,400 chemicals of very high concern.  This program is an implementation of the precautionary principle.  He argued that there are huge data gaps between the information needed by the public and that which is readily available.  He thinks distributors know little or nothing about what they are selling, what their chemicals do, or what dangers are associated with their use and disposal.  

Professor John Warner, Director of the Center for Green Chemistry at the University of Massachusetts in Lowell, had a very positive message on the graduate study program (that he started) and it’s results.  His program is the first in this country developed to teach and study green chemistry applications.  His eight current students now have 13 patents and the technologies that they have developed have applications in multiple industries.  

Bruce Jennings, consultant to the Senate Environmental Quality Committee, stated that the Committee’s Chair, Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto), will begin holding hearings in late June to discuss how Wilson’s report is best implemented.

An industry panelist (who represents ACC) gave quite a different view of the chemical situation.  It was noted that the Safety Data Management Sheets, the industry’s High Volume Production Chemical Program and the U.S.’s Toxic Substance Control Act of 1976 (while not perfect) answer 95 percent or more of the questions posed by REACH.  Minor changes could be made to programs already in place.  Another chemical manufacturer explained how their investment in California has shrunk due to over-regulation.  Two members of the biochem industry explained that they are now marketing products that cost over a billion dollars and 15 years to develop which would be banned under REACH.  Their ban could cause severe public health consequences.  

There is no question that if a REACH-type system is imposed on California, the costs will go up (an estimated 20 percent) and the availability of many chemicals or their downstream products will be in jeopardy.  CMTA will ask for support of it’s lobbying efforts from the chemical industry and other manufacturers when hearings on this subject commence.
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