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ADVISORY PANEL DEPARTS DEFIANT
Disbanded group says ACC ignores public input at its peril
The 15-member public advisory panel set up 12 years ago by the American Chemistry Council (ACC) to provide a forum for public critique of the industry's Responsible Care program has issued a posthumous letter telling ACC that it must continue to seek public input or risk loss of public confidence.
ACC placed calls to panel members earlier this year to say it would be abandoning the panel. "We want to broaden the range of expertise available to us in other stakeholder processes such as children's health and chemical testing," says Terry F. Yosie, ACC vice president for strategic communications.
Panel members, who met for one last hurrah in June in Washington, D.C., wrote, "We acknowledge ACC's prerogative to acquire information from whatever sources it judges to be appropriate, but we also note ACC's responsibility to look to sources that are unbiased, informed, and scientifically sound."
The panel points out that the 33 individuals who served on it during its 12-year history invested 10,000 person-hours over 49 weekends in Responsible Care. Yet, it maintains that ACC still does not understand how important the panel has become to ACC's effort "to gain and maintain public confidence."
Yosie disagrees. "The panel has done excellent service," he says. "The reason why this industry improved its employee health and safety record over the last decade is we listened to what the panel had to say."
ACC hasn't yet decided whether it will create another advisory panel, Yosie says. If it does, it would likely include two or three people from the old panel, says one ACC insider.
Ross Vincent, a senior policy adviser with the Sierra Club and a member of the disbanded panel, says, "Broadening the scope of a new panel to include more than Responsible Care may make sense as long as it is not shoved onto the back burner. Responsible Care is and was the best hope for the industry."
Vincent fears that ACC may form a panel that favors Washington-centered policy wonks. But "they really need contact with plant neighbors and local groups" to get meaningful advice, he says.
Yosie counters that ACC wants to continue a dialogue with chemical plant community representatives. "They're important to us," he says. But also important to ACC is access to "people in the U.S. with international experience."
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