List of 'chemicals of concern' may be 'game changer' for producers
NORTH BAY – The California Department of Toxic Substance Control is considering new regulations on how it monitors chemicals and how dangerous substances are defined – known as “green chemistry” – and the proposals thus far could have a significant impact on companies in California.
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The current proposals, which have yet to be announced, stem from Assembly Bill 1879, passed in 2008. It was an attempt to create a systematic approach to dealing with numerous chemical issues arising within the Legislature, which were becoming increasingly patchwork and disparate, said John Epperson, a special counsel with Farella Braun & Martel, a law firm with offices in St. Helena and San Francisco. The bill set a deadline of Jan. 1, 2011, for coming up with final regulations.
Now, as that deadline looms and as the legislation is debated, significant concern is centered on whatever shape the regulations take and just how far-reaching the new rules may be, Mr. Epperson said. The comment period for the regulations ended in July.
A list of “chemicals of concern” is one element that is being considered, and the scope of such a list has the potential to be a “game changer” for companies producing chemicals in California, Mr. Epperson said.
“A big question is how many chemicals are going to make it on that list of concern,” Mr. Epperson said. “It can be very far reaching. It’s going to change how people make their products.”
According to the state office, the draft legislation “will create a systematic, science-based process that evaluates chemicals of concern in products” and will “also stimulate innovation in California’s product development sector.”
The legislation would prioritize toxic chemicals while requiring manufactures to “seek safer alternatives” to identified chemicals in products. Stricter governmental enforcement would be created for lack of compliance as well, the state office said.
While the legislation is still in flux – and could change between now and January of next year – a mountain of comments have been submitted expressing concern about both whatever chemicals may be identified and how such a law would be implemented.
“Our major concern is how we are going to report all of our chemicals,” said Barbara Roberts, president of Wright Engineered Plastics in Santa Rosa, which is a Sonoma County certified green manufacturing business. “We probably use thousands and thousands of components and each one is sent to us from hundreds of different sources.”
“Consumer products subject to the Green Chemistry Program are very broadly defined to be any product used, bought or leased for use by a person for any purpose,” Mr. Epperson said in a client update, writing with Farella Braun & Martel attorneys Robert Hines and Deborah Tellie. “As such, these regulations have a huge potential reach.”
Chemical-producing companies should start planning now for any changes, Mr. Epperson said, adding that it’s a matter of when – not if – the changes will have broad impact.
Industry groups, he continued, are hoping for incremental changes rather than a massive overhaul in order to prepare alternative assessments, which are time-consuming and costly for companies.