Lawmakers wrapped up day 38 of the legislative session on Thursday before heading home for a long weekend. The legislature will gavel in on Tuesday and Thursday next week to conclude the state’s business for the year. We will not send out a legislative report next week but will wait and put together a comprehensive report for distribution the following week.
This week for GCC: Both of our bills, HB 904 and SB 333, have passed the legislature.
Ironically, the bills are companion bills – with the exact same language. We tactically ran companion bills due to the fast-paced session this year—trying to be precautionary. If one bill got bogged down, we would have a backup. Normally, we would have pulled one of the bills as soon as one passed both legislative bodies. Well, they both passed and are on their way to the governor—double success. This legislation will provide property owners with the right of appeal regarding hazardous site listing decisions. I wish we could have substituted HB 900, the consumables bill, for one of our passed bills. The consumables bill passed out of Senate Finance Committee yesterday, and we are scrambling to get it through the Rules Committee on Monday. Hopefully, HB 900 will be added to the calendar for a floor vote in the Senate on legislative day 39, which is the last day for the Senate to consider a bill.
So far, the legislative session has been very good for GCC. I think you will be pleased with the session wrap-up.
The final plans for next Wednesday’s breakfast in Augusta with Rep. John Barrow are now complete. DSM will host the meeting at a conference room in the DSM South Center location (1736 Lovers Lane, Augusta, GA). We will be providing Chick-fil-a chicken biscuits and coffee. The meeting will begin at 8:30 am, but please arrive early. You will have to check in through security. The purpose of the meeting is to have some information discussion with the congressman regarding TSCA legislation that is expected to be introduced in the House very soon. He has been a good supporter of our industry in the past, and we want to make sure he understands that reforming TSCA is a critical issue for American Chemistry. If you have not let me know that you or someone from your facility is attending, please do so today. It is important that we have a good crowd. Non-GCC members are welcome to the breakfast. It will be a good opportunity for them to see us in action.
The past few weeks have seen significant movement on a number of our mission critical issues, including the much-anticipated release of a draft House TSCA reform bill, passage of multiple energy bills in the House, and developments on chemical safety and security, rail transportation, and value chain initiatives.
As you know, in late February House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee Chairman John Shimkus (R-IL) released a discussion draft of the “Chemicals in Commerce Act of 2014,” a companion bill to the Senate’s Chemical Safety Improvement Act. A hearing has been scheduled for March 12th and will include testimony from ACC member, Dow’s Connie Deford. ACC has created acomparative analysis of the proposed legislation with current law and the Senate’s
bipartisan Chemical Safety Improvement Act.
As a follow up to its announcement last fall regarding a new policy on “Sustainable Chemistry in Consumables,” Walmart recently released an Implementation Guide providing additional information on the details and rollout of the sustainability policy. In the guide, Walmart reiterates the creation of a list of approximately 10 “high priority” chemicals, which will not be made public but will be communicated directly to suppliers through Walmart’s partner, The Wercs. Walmart is also asking that suppliers of the consumable product groups identified in the policy provide full ingredient disclosure at the per-product level on the supplier’s website beginning in January 2015.
EPA’s Design for the Environment (DfE), a hazard-based green labeling and alternative assessment program, which EPA has been touting as one of its three tiers of chemical management strategy, is cited as an authoritative product labeling program throughout the guidance document. Additionally, Walmart reemphasizes that it will work to formulate and label its private brand products in accordance with DfE, beginning this year with cleaning products and expanding to other categories in the future.
ACC is undertaking a comprehensive review of the policy and its potential implications and will provide more detailed information to members as it becomes available. Initial concerns include lack of sufficient confidential business information protection; new, yet to be defined product labeling requirements; and forced hazard-based ingredient substitution.
Building on our previous report, on Thursday morning, in partnership with organizations representing manufacturers, farmers, utilities and others, ACC will release new research conducted by Escalation Consultants that shows that skyrocketing freight rail premiums are taking a toll on not only the chemical industry, but also the broader manufacturing sector. According to federal government data supplied by the railroads themselves, premiums on rail shipments soared by 90 percent from 2005 to 2011, despite a drop in demand, providing further showcasing the freight rail industry’s restriction of free market forces.
The data continues to support ACC’s calls for comprehensive rail reform that modernizes outdated policies, allows for competitive switching, and restores free market forces to the rail system, allowing U.S. manufacturers to compete in the global marketplace. In 2011 alone, the total rate premium paid by commodity shippers exceeded $16 billion, with the heaviest impact on chemicals and plastics, coal, and transportation equipment shippers.
The report’s release comes as the Surface Transportation Board (STB) prepares to hold a public hearing March 25-26 to further explore the National Industrial Transportation League’s (NITL) petition on the STB’s competitive switching rules. ACC will testify to reiterate our support for NITL’s proposed reforms. Competitive switching would allow a rail customer that is served by a single major railroad to request to have its traffic switched to a different carrier at a nearby interchange, allowing the shipper to seek competing bids for rail service.
Last week, the House passed a series of energy bills on issues including energy efficiency, greenhouse gases, and environmental reviews. ACC strongly supports all three of the bills, which promote economic growth and job creation and reduce unnecessary bureaucratic red tape.
- Responsibly and Professionally Invigorating Development Act (RAPID Act): Introduced by Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA), the RAPID Act sets an 18-month time limit for environmental assessments on proposed construction projects, as well as a 36-month time limit for environmental impact statements. The bill is an attempt to limit the delays projects often face as a result of environmental reviews, fostering economic growth and job creation. ACC, along with numerous other associations, sent a letter to the House in support of the bill.
- Electricity Security & Affordability Act: Co-sponsored by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY), the Electricity Security & Affordability Act would override EPA’s proposed regulations on carbon emissions from new coal-fired power plants. The bill would also require the EPA to identify the costs of power plant regulations and report back to Congress. A key issue with EPA’s proposed regulations is the necessity of plants to install unproven carbon capture and storage technology in order to meet the low emissions threshold.
- Better Buildings Act: Representatives Peter Welch (D-VT) and David McKinley (R-WV) sponsored this bipartisan bill, aimed at boosting the energy efficiency of commercially leased buildings through the establishment of a voluntary certification program called Tenant Star. ACC is encouraged by this passage, as much of the House bill reflects provisions in the recently re-introduced Senate bill, the Shaheen-Portman Energy Efficiency & Industrial Competitiveness Act, which ACC continues to strongly support. It is our hope that the House bill will jump-start consideration of the Senate bill.