Monthly Archives: July 2010

Not playing nice: The American Chemistry Council solidifies its claim to being the “industry of no”

Richard Denison, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist.

If you had any doubt when reading my post earlier this week that the chemical industry isn’t serious about real TSCA reform, watch American Chemistry Council (ACC) President and CEO Cal Dooley’s hard-line performance at yesterday’s hearing before a subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee (video link at the bottom of this page).  The legislative hearing focused on H.R. 5820, the Rush-Waxman Toxic Chemicals Safety Act of 2010 that was introduced last week.

All the themes I struck in my earlier blog post Mr. Dooley played out in spades:  more loud and long complaints aimed at every aspect of the bill; placing the worst possible interpretation on any provision subject to interpretation; playing the China and job-loss cards over and over; and last but not least, offering not a single constructive proposal of his own for reform.

A very different industry voice was also at the witness table, however – Howard Williams, V.P. & General Manager of the Pennsylvania division of Construction Specialties.  Mr. Williams deftly countered all of ACC’s theatrics, embracing all of the bill’s key provisions and making a strong business case for them.  Read More »

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Should we continue to take the chemical industry at its word when it insists it’s still for TSCA reform?

Richard Denison, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist.

I’m one of those throwbacks that loves to read a hard copy of a newspaper in the morning.  One thing the hard copies provide that reading online doesn’t is the ability to take in those full-page paid ads that Corporate America runs on a virtually daily basis.

Lately, not surprisingly, ads from “the people of America’s oil and natural gas industry” – aka the American Petroleum Institute (API) – are appearing frequently in the New York Times and Washington Post.  In one recent ad, API asserts:  “Above all else, the people of America’s oil and natural gas industry are committed to safe operations.”  That one is a little hard to swallow, coming as it does not only right on the heels of the largest environmental disaster in American history, but after years of staunch opposition to stronger safety regulation.  It seems API is now all for safety, after years of being against it.

This got me thinking about the chemical industry.  The industry’s main trade association, the American Chemistry Council (ACC), now says it’s all for “modernizing” TSCA, after years of opposing any such effort.  Why am I getting suspicious that there may be no there there?  Read More »

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More than weather heating up in DC: Rush-Waxman House bill puts TSCA reform back on front burner

Richard Denison, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist.

We’ve just moved another step closer to protecting Americans and our environment from dangerous chemicals.

The Toxic Chemicals Safety Act of 2010 (H.R. 5820) has been formally introduced by Congressmen Bobby Rush (D-IL) and Henry Waxman (D-CA).  The legislation would implement a top-to-bottom overhaul of the outmoded and ineffectual 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  Read More »

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Exceptions swallow the rule: “Rare cases” turn into daily approvals for dispersant use

Richard Denison, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist.

What the EPA hath sought to take away from BP, the US Coast Guard hath given back.

Remember the May 26 Directive that, well, directed BP to “eliminate the surface application of dispersants” except in “rare cases when there may have to be an exemption” and where BP submits a written request and receives an exemption in writing from the Federal On-Scene Coordinator (FOSC, currently Admiral James Watson of the Coast Guard)?

Naturally, I was curious about the nature and number of such exemptions, given that, as I noted earlier, surface application of dispersants has continued since the May 26 Directive.  After I (and others, I expect) made inquiries a couple of weeks ago to get copies of the written requests from BP and written approvals from the FOSC, the Coast Guard has informed me that it has posted these documents on the Deepwater Horizon response website.

These documents reveal that, as of June 30 (the last day for which a document has been posted as of this writing), more than 40 exemption requests have been submitted – and approved.  These exemptions have allowed surface application of dispersant to occur virtually every day since the Directive was issued.

The documents also hold some other interesting details as to the rationales offered for the exemptions and the nature of the approvals.  Read More »

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Not so fast: Why dispersants EPA ranks as “practically non-toxic” are still a concern

Richard Denison, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist.

To judge by the headlines and leads of stories that ran on the websites of the New York Times (“The E.P.A. on Dispersants: Cure Is Not Worse Than the Disease”) and the Washington Post (“Oil dispersant does not pose environmental threat, early EPA findings suggest”) reporting on an EPA conference call held Wednesday, you’d think the first round of test results on dispersants conducted by EPA answered all outstanding questions and gave their use a clean bill of health.

Hardly.  (Despite the misleading headlines and leads, the rest of these stories were more nuanced and more accurate.)

As I reported in a post Wednesday, the new acute toxicity data were from tests conducted on the dispersants by themselves, rather than mixed with oil – which is what the environment sees.  Moreover, the new data did little more than confirm already available data showing that currently listed dispersants exhibit relatively low acute toxicity to fish and shrimp, and that by themselves they are less toxic than oil by itself.

So despite the hoopla, the new data from this first round of testing are of very limited utility in answering any of the more profound questions surrounding the use of dispersants.  Read More »

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Katrina chronicles meet the BP oil disaster: Formaldehyde-laced trailers are back in the Gulf

Richard Denison, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist.

In another truly bizarre collision between recent Gulf coast disasters (on top of Hurricane Alex), Ian Urbina of the New York Times reports on the front page today that those toxic trailers – sold at auction by FEMA back in March – have been reincarnated once again, this time as housing for Gulf cleanup workers.

I had blogged about the sale at the time, questioning the viability of FEMA’s assurance that “wholesale buyers from the auction must sign contracts attesting that trailers will not be used, sold or advertised as housing, and that trailers will carry a sticker saying, ‘Not to be used for housing’.”  In that post, I had cynically asked:  “Think that’s likely to be enough?”

With good reason, it turns out.  Read More »

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