Dawn Koepke

Green chemistry back in the spotlight

By Dawn Koepke

Capitol Update, Feb. 15, 2019

Last week the Senate Environmental Quality and Assembly Environmental Safety & Toxic Materials Committees held a joint hearing regarding the Department of Toxic Substances Control’s (DTSC) Safer Consumer Products Program and overall green chemistry efforts in California. The hearing also provided a forum for Dr. Gina Solomon of the Public Health Institute, formerly with the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA), to present her report on the Green Chemistry Initiative. The report provided historical context for the establishment of the Program, an overview of progress and activity to date, and recommendations on updating the Program. (See here)

In an effort to educate the Legislature on the involvement of the business community and CMTA’s leadership on green chemistry since 2008, CMTA along with fellow company and trade representatives made the rounds sharing the business community’s perspectives on the Program and Dr. Solomon’s report. The meetings were well-received and good insight was obtained on the Legislature’s view of the Program. While Legislative members remain supportive of the overarching goals and efforts of the Program, they are concerned about the pace, transparency and capacity of the Program. These were key themes discussed during the hearing, with DTSC Acting Director and Deputy Director for the Safer Consumer Products Program Dr. Meredith Williams attempting to respond to the various concerns and points raised. Other speakers included representatives from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and business communities who offered varying views about how best to resolve the concerns.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), in particular, highlighted concerns regarding a lack of ingredient information available, a lack of deadlines set by the Department leading to a perceived backlog, one size fits all alternatives analysis approach, funding deficiencies, and interest in considering a fast or alternative track to act on chemical-product combinations more quickly. Senator Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica) will be introducing legislation in conjunction with the NRDC along these lines.  

Other notable issues raised in the discussion that are relevant for CMTA members include:

  • BPA and BPS were raised in the context of regrettable substitutes, with the NGOs arguing BPS is as dangerous as BPA; 
  • Food Packaging was also raised relative to perflourinated chemical use, with the suggestion that much of the industry is phasing out their use; 
  • Perflourinated chemicals were raised with a direct question about whether DTSC perceives there to be a difference between long chain and short chain PFAS chemicals with DTSC indicating they can’t be sure given their persistence and as such highlighted their carpet and rug priority product listing which focuses on the full class rather than one chemical or subset of chemicals (relevant to the AB 958 Ting bill on the topic last session);
  • DTSC, when asked the pointed question about their wish-list, indicated they would like to have additional, more stable funding for more positions; better data call-in authority; increased ingredient disclosure; and
  • DTSC highlighted one problem with SB 258 (cleaning product ingredient disclosure bill, chaptered in 2018) is it doesn’t have an agency home for oversight and enforcement of disclosure requirements.

In addition to legislation introduced by Senator Allen, it is likely we will see a couple of other bills introduced in the green chemistry space in the next week. The deadline for bill introduction is Friday, February 22. CMTA will keep you posted on developments. In the meantime, materials from the hearing can be reviewed at https://aesm.assembly.ca.gov/greenchemistryoversighthearings


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