If you can’t say anything nice …

Richard Denison, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist.  EDF intern Lydia Kaprelian assisted with the analysis of trade association statements reported in this post.

In response to last week’s noteworthy mark-up of the Safe Chemicals Act, six major trade associations issued statements commenting on the event (see links at the end of this post).  I was struck by the broad spectrum of reaction and decided to do a little analysis.  I counted up the number of positive and negative comments or items noted in each statement about the bill, and then plotted them on a graph, along with the percentage of all comments in each statement that were negative.  Here’s how it looks:

The first thing that jumps out is how much of an outlier the American Chemistry Council (ACC) is, way off there on the lower right of the chart all by itself.  Talk about extreme (the word ACC President and CEO Cal Dooley used to describe the Safe Chemicals Act; subscription required).  Despite the fact that the bill was heavily rewritten to accommodate industry concerns, ACC couldn’t find a single positive thing to say about it, but really piled on with the negatives.  Do ACC member companies really want to be in that extreme of a position in this debate? 

Other trades seemed to have had no trouble finding and noting the many changes made to the language, even if they still said they could not support the bill.  The “most careful reader” award goes hands down to SOCMA:  Its statement listed no fewer than 7 major areas in which the language had changed significantly: 

“… the amended legislation is an improvement over the previous version and does address some key provisions of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), such as separating the inventory of chemicals into an active and inactive list. It also has more targeted information requirements, and includes processor reporting and puts more emphasis on utilizing existing information. The amended version also requires prioritization and improves the treatment of U.S. intellectual property and new chemicals, both of which are essential areas of a modernized TSCA.”

While SOCMA clearly had time to do a pretty thorough review of the language, ACC’s statement noted that it had only done a “cursory review.”  Maybe that explains how they missed such major changes, though ACC also tried to blame that on Senator Lautenberg:  “We are also troubled that less than twenty-four hours before the markup Senator Lautenberg released a 174-page revised version of the Safe Chemicals Act.”

What ACC conveniently fails to mention in its rush to criticize, however, is that it had already received the revised language of the bill many weeks earlier, through the bipartisan negotiations to which its statement refers.

As to ACC’s claim that “ACC and our members are committed to working with the Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works to pursue reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), and have demonstrated our commitment time and again,” their record speaks for itself:  They have never publicly offered a single substantive legislative reform proposal since issuing their “10 Principles for Modernizing TSCA” in August 2009.

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Links to trade association statements:

American Chemistry Council 
American Cleaning Institute 
American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers 
Consumer Specialty Products Association 
Grocery Manufacturers Association 
Society of Chemical Manufacturers & Affiliates

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