Thursday, October 12, 2006

Key European Vote May Strengthen REACH Proposal

Oct 10: The Environment Committee of the European Parliament decided by a large majority to take a tougher line on the European chemical regulation proposal than the Council of Ministers. The action sets the stage for a possible final agreement before the end of 2006. The members called for the most hazardous substances to be substituted wherever possible and also stressed the duty of care principle and the need to promote alternatives to animal testing. According to a release, the committee adopted its report on REACH (the regulation on the registration, evaluation and authorization of chemicals) by 42 votes to 12 with 6 abstentions. Rapporteur Guido Sacconi of Italy said the vote confirmed four of Parliament's key priorities, which should stiffen its resolve in negotiations with Council. These priorities are the substitution of the most dangerous substances, the duty of care, the compulsory safety assessment for chemical products in amounts of less than 10 tonnes and the promotion of alternatives to animal testing.

Alain Perroy, Cefic (the European Chemical Industry Council) Director General said, "Today’s vote in the Environment Committee of the European Parliament (EP) will hamper the ability of REACH to achieve its goals to drive both greater safety of products and competitiveness of the European industry... For industry it is time that the REACH regulation gets finally adopted, ending a long period of uncertainty, as we need to start the implementation phase. Our member companies have already started to prepare themselves and we will support them through our Cefic ‘ReachCentrum’ service unit.”

The National Petrochemical & Refiners Association (NPRA), representing 450 companies, including virtually all US refiners and petrochemical manufacturers issued a statement saying, "NPRA is disappointed that the European Parliament’s Environment Committee failed to approve an amendment designed to avoid additional unnecessary and overlapping testing requirements and costs. By rejecting this modest proposal, the Committee has paid a disservice to well-documented scientific data generated by OECD and other prominent international chemical programs. Adoption of this amendment also would have reduced future needs for animal testing—a benefit that will now go unrealized. Although we regret yesterday’s action, NPRA hopes that the European Parliament, Council of Ministers, and the European Commission will work to design a REACH program that avoids the unnecessary costs and animal tests that result from failure to include language recognizing the results of prior OECD work.”

Environmental organizations hailed the vote and said, "’s Environment Committee vote on the new EU chemicals law (REACH) [is] a vital step towards protecting health and the environment from chemical contamination. The Committee strongly supported the substitution of hazardous chemicals whenever safer alternatives are available. The vote reflects cross-party support for the substitution principle and re-confirms a decision made by the entire assembly last November, which has so far been ignored by the Council of Ministers. It sends a strong message back to the Council that MEPs remain determined that chemicals of very high concern should be replaced with safer alternatives whenever possible. This legal obligation is essential to drive innovation of safer chemicals, in order to end the build-up of harmful substances in our bodies and the environment - one of the key objectives of REACH."

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) said, "Today’s vote by a committee of the European Parliament is an unfortunate setback for the goal of achieving a fair, workable and proportionate result in the REACH debate. Many of the amendments adopted by the committee will adversely impact the US and other EU trading partners, specifically in areas such as time limited authorizations, mandatory substitution, disproportionate requirements on non-EU importers of polymers, limited rights for confidential business information, and introduction of a separate discriminatory legal ‘duty of care.’"

Access a release from the European Parliament (
click here). Access the June 2006 report from the Environment Committee (click here). Access a EurActiv report of the actions and key links (click here); and here (click here). Access a release from Cefic (click here). Access the Cefic REACH website (click here). Access the NPRA statement (click here). Access the ACC statement (click here). Access a release from environmental groups (click here). Access the WIMS-EcoBizPort REACH links for additional information (click here). [*Toxics]