Speech by SOCMA President at the 2016 GlobalChem Conference & Expo

Speech by Lawrence D. Sloan, President and CEO, SOCMA
GlobalChem Conference & Expo
Thursday, March 24, 2016

Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill, Washington, DC

Good morning everyone and welcome to Washington, D.C., for Day 2 of this year’s Global Chemical Regulations Conference.  My name is Larry Sloan, and I am President and CEO of the Society of Chemical Manufacturers & Affiliates (SOCMA).  I am pleased to be with you to open today’s proceedings for our premier chemical regulations conference – an event we have hosted with the American Chemistry Council (ACC) for more than two decades.

Your participation continues to make this conference arguably the single-most-important gathering place each year for chemical industry professionals who need to stay abreast of the latest legislative and regulatory developments, both domestic and foreign.  

I would like to express my thanks to our conference sponsors who also help make this premier event possible: Beveridge & Diamond, Chemical Abstracts Services, REACH24 and Steptoe and Johnson. Let’s give them a round of applause.
Thank you all!

I would also like to thank Andreas Herdina with the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), who is graciously offering his time to discuss ECHA’s activities in preparation for the next REACh deadline.  You will hear from him shortly.

As most of you know, SOCMA is the voice of America’s specialty chemical manufacturing industry. Our sector is known for its innovative chemistries, which go into a wide variety of highly specialized applications.  Many SOCMA members are also small and medium-sized enterprises. 

We come together at a particularly exciting time with passage of bipartisan Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) reform practically at our fingertips.  We have been working on this issue for some time now, along with our colleagues at ACC, and many other industries throughout the supply chain.  Our advocacy has focused on promoting final legislation that allows for:

  • An expeditious new chemicals process. This is particularly important for batch manufacturers who make chemicals on-demand and in instances where it may be difficult to forecast demands.
  • A fee structure that is not overly burdensome to small business.  We will be paying more, but it should not be prohibitive. We believe fees should also go to programs for which they are charged.
  • And last but not least, strong trade secret protections. It is protection of CBI that enables innovation and the development of new and improved chemistries, not only from a performance standpoint, but also safety. To innovate you need the confidence your investments will not be lost.  Ensuring this is critical.

For many of us it is hard to believe we have come this far. We are almost there, and I remain optimistic we will reach the finish line. Hats off to leadership in both the House and Senate, and their staff, for their outreach and willingness to take a more balanced approach toward TSCA reform.   

It is truly remarkable to see such bipartisan spirit and substance, especially on legislation that is as much about the safe use of chemicals as it is interstate commerce. We believe both House and Senate bills can be reconciled. They have many important things in common. They clearly strengthen the status quo and are a major step forward. In general, they provide:

  • A mandate to conduct safety assessments with deadlines.
  • A purely health-based safety standard without cost considerations.
  • Order authority for testing existing chemicals.
  • Greater disclosure of CBI with periodic re-substantiation.
  • Enhanced resources with fees going directly to TSCA programs, including industry funded assessments.
  • Strengthened preemption.

There are many factors that have brought us to this point, not the least of which is industry’s willingness to compromise. As we near the finish line with a reconciled bill I am confident it will be done in such a way that promotes innovation while also increasing the confidence in our chemicals management system.  

But, our work will not stop here. Moving forward, as we continue to negotiate the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), as well as other trade agreements, we will continue to advocate for rational approaches to chemical policies that promote U.S. competitiveness in the global marketplace.

A thriving industry will not be driven by unnecessarily complex policies that are difficult to navigate or implement, or restrictive approaches. 

From a public relations standpoint, there continues to be a lingering misunderstanding about chemicals and the role they play in our society. Chemophobia persists and will continue even after TSCA reform is in place. Unfortunately, scare tactics and junk science at times drive policy. This will be an ongoing challenge. As a chemical engineer I have always taken the promotion of our industry personally. 

I sometimes wonder how many people stop to think about the supposed hazards of pumping gas into their cars.  It is flammable, and if not properly handled, can cause harm. But, that does not mean we should ban it. It does not mean we should make handling it so convoluted that it becomes impractical to use, either.

Then there is water – seemingly innocuous, unless you call it dihydrogen oxide, of course – but, if misused, it can cause serious harm as well.

This is why we have to look at chemicals in context! And, this is where the concept of risk comes in. We must look at hazard and exposure. Just because something is present does not mean it is going to cause harm.

I could go on and on about chemistry in our day-to-day lives, but I’ll stop here. Momentarily, you will hear from our keynote speaker on the public perception of risk. I look forward to it, and I’m sure we will have much to learn from his presentation.

Thank you for your time and attention this morning and for your attendance at GlobalChem this year.

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