May 20, 2002
Volume 80, Number 20
CENEAR 80 20 p. 7
ISSN 0009-2347


Industry, environmentalists line up against Administration on legislation

In a rare convergence, the chemical industry and environmental groups are in agreement over a key provision of legislation implementing a treaty controlling persistent organic pollutants (POPs)--and at odds with the Bush Administration.

The Administration, industry, and environmentalists all support the 2001 Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. But environmental advocates and chemical makers say Congress should not have to amend two environmental laws every time new substances get added to the treaty.

Instead, they say, legislation to implement the Stockholm convention should include language so the U.S. automatically classifies a chemical as a POP after treaty partners agree that the substance deserves the ranking. Such U.S. classification likely would restrict exports of the compound.

The Bush Administration opposes inclusion of a so-called adding mechanism in the legislation.

The Stockholm convention initially calls for banning or severely restricting 12 substances that include DDT and polychlorinated biphenyls. It includes a process for listing more chemicals.

For the U.S. to become a partner to the treaty, Congress must pass implementing legislation making small changes to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide & Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). The Senate is considering two such measures: S. 2118, which contains an adding mechanism, and S. 2507, the Bush Administration's plan, which does not. Under either bill, the Senate must assent to the addition of any chemical added to the pact before the U.S. can treat the substance as a POP--but this process is far simpler than amending laws.

At a May 14 Senate hearing, Karen L. Perry, deputy director of the environment and health program at Physicians for Social Responsibility, argued for an adding mechanism. "A process requiring repeated amendment seems unmanageable, undesirable, and politically unrealistic," she said.

Michael Walls, senior counsel for the American Chemistry Council, also supports an adding mechanism. "It makes sense to address it now," Walls told the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee last week, rather than omitting the provision and trying to pass it in the future.

CropLife America, the trade association of pesticide manufacturers, distributers, and formulators, generally supports the idea of an adding mechanism, according to Nancy Foster, vice president of federal legislative affairs.

The Administration dismisses the concept. A White House official tells C&EN, "The U.S. does not need congressional approval to regulate additional chemicals, POPs or otherwise, under TSCA and FIFRA."

Industry and environmental groups, however, are at odds on the details of whether classification of a chemical as a POP should trigger regulation. Foster said an adding mechanism should not change the U.S. process for regulating pesticides classified as POPs while environmentalists suggested the mechanism should streamline stricter regulation of POPs.

Momentum is building internationally for countries to ratify the Stockholm convention before the World Summit on Sustainable Development, which will take place Aug. 26–Sept. 4.


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Copyright © 2002 American Chemical Society