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Elections Bolster Industry Agenda

Congress: Chemical makers expect progress on TSCA reform, other priorities

by Glenn Hess , Andrea Widener
November 10, 2014 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 92, Issue 45

Credit: AP Photo/Susan Walsh
Inhofe (right) will replace Boxer as head of Senate environment panel.
Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., right, speaks as Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., listens during the first meeting of the House and Senate conference on the transportation bill,Tuesday, May 8, 2012, on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Credit: AP Photo/Susan Walsh
Inhofe (right) will replace Boxer as head of Senate environment panel.

With Republicans consolidating their power on Capitol Hill in the midterm elections, chemical industry officials hope to see major progress next year on several priorities, including an overhaul of the principal law governing chemical production in the U.S.

“Of significant importance for our industry is the momentum for achieving bipartisan reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA),” says William E. Allmond IV, vice president of government and public relations at the Society of Chemical Manufacturers & Affiliates, a trade group representing 220 mostly small and medium-size specialty chemical makers.

The key change, he notes, is that industry supporter Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.) will succeed Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) as chair of the Environment & Public Works Committee, which has jurisdiction over the issue. “Over the last two years, Sen. Boxer has single-handedly blocked bipartisan efforts to reform TSCA,” Allmond says.

Although the industry wants one set of federal rules for managing commercial chemicals, Boxer wants to preserve the right of states to enact their own regulations.

In addition to TSCA reform, Allmond says he expects Republican leaders will act on other industry priorities, such as passing legislation to expand international trade, renew an expired tax credit for R&D, and reauthorize the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards program for multiple years.

Although Democrats suffered heavy losses, environmental groups say Congress should not view the election results as a shift in public support for aggressive green policies such as cutting carbon emissions.

“Whatever may have driven individual races, the American people want action on climate change,” says Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “They didn’t vote to roll back foundational environmental safeguards for the sake of polluter profits.”

Meanwhile, some advocates believe support for science research may increase, spurred in part by the Ebola outbreak. “The Ebola scare—and people are frightened about it—has led people to start to connect the dots a little bit,” says former Rep. John Porter (R-Ill.). “There is a general feeling that in the next Congress there will be more goodwill toward research funding.”



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