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Massachusetts Businesses Struggling With

                            Regulations on Chemicals

                            Industry leaders find the current regulatory process overly

                            burdensome and costly


                            Is Massachusetts being unfair to industries that use and manufacture chemical products?

                            Has it decided that they are all "evil" and is it driving them out of the state? That’s what

                            business leaders are saying in a vehement disagreement with the state as to the best way to

                            control toxic chemicals and the emissions resulting from them.



                            Massachusetts News


                            November 1--Industry leaders and government officials disagree on the success of

                            cleanup programs, the necessity for more regulations and the Toxic Use

                            Reduction Act, which is before the legislature for renewal.


                            Industry leaders find the current regulatory process overly burdensome and

                            costly. They also claim that it puts them at a competitive disadvantage with

                            competitors in other states. They showed up in large numbers to voice their

                            displeasure when the Committee on Natural Resources and Agriculture held a

                            hearing on the "Toxic Use Reduction Act" at the Statehouse in September.


                            Passed by a unanimous vote of the Massachusetts legislature in 1990 to spur a

                            reduction in the use of environmentally repugnant toxic chemicals, the act may be

                            expanded to include more sectors of the economy and made easier for businesses

                            to comply.


                            Since 1990, Massachusetts industries claim to have decreased their chemical use

                            by 201 million pounds, or 24 percent, and have decreased their waste generation

                            by nearly 44 million pounds, or 41 percent. In addition, they have reduced their

                            air and water emissions by 16.2 million pounds – an 80 percent reduction in

                            permitted releases, say industry leaders.


                            Environmentalists Disagree


                            Environmentalists, however, dispute the industry figures on reduction. This led

                            Sen. Marc Pacheco (D-Taunton) to tell representatives of both sides that he was

                            "frustrated with trying to get agreement on the facts." He asked how he and other

                            members of the Natural Resources and Agriculture Committee were supposed to

                            make decisions when each side gave them a distinctly different set of "facts."


                            Many legislators and environmentalists say toxic chemicals, even if disposed of

                            according to environmental laws, harm the environment because they may still end

                            up in our landfills or emitted into the air through smokestacks. Some say the mere

                            presence of toxic chemicals is hazardous to employees who work in their

                            proximity because of potential spills and fire.


                            Industry officials who work with these chemicals say the requirements to report

                            and document their use to state officials are burdensome and raise costs. The

                            companies are also required regularly to submit a plan to state officials on how

                            they could possibly use fewer toxic chemicals and pay an annual fee because they

                            use toxic chemicals.


                            Ernest Whalen, president of HeatBath Corporation, who has 30 employees in

                            Springfield, told Massachusetts News he must devote 60 man-hours annually

                            researching a plan to use less toxic chemicals, which he says is wasteful because it

                            is impossible for him to use fewer toxic chemicals.


                            Because of the high disposal costs of toxic chemicals, he already has an economic

                            incentive to use less, so requiring him to submit a plan is pointless, says Whalen.


                            "The act is a total waste of time for us. We are forced to develop a plan for

                            nothing. It will not help the environment," he says.


                            Whalen also pays a fee of $5,550 annually for no other reason than for his right to

                            use toxic chemicals, and he must attend a 30-hour education class every two

                            years to learn about toxic chemicals. He refers to the mandated seminars as

                            "re-education classes."


                            Michael DeVito, executive director of the Massachusetts Technology Alliance,

                            Inc., says the act operates with the injudicious premise that, "The mere use of

                            chemicals is less than positive."


                            "This is a false premise," says DeVito. "It is ludicrous and should be replaced.

                            The use of chemicals is not bad as long as they are used safely and responsibly.

                            Chemical products such as chlorine are used to clean drinking water and

                            therefore promote a longer life span."


                            DeVito estimates the act has cost Massachusetts companies $65 million since its

                            inception, and since businesses in most states are not required to comply with the

                            act, it gives Bay State companies a competitive disadvantage.


                            Mere Presence is a Hazard


                            But Rep. Douglas W. Petersen (D-Marblehead), co-chairman of the Joint

                            Committee on Natural Resources and Agriculture says, "The mere presence of

                            pounds of toxic chemicals is dangerous because of workplace hazards, fire and

                            smokestack emissions into the surrounding community." He added that, "The act

                            can inspire companies to reduce the amount of toxic chemicals, and it is usually

                            cheaper for them to use less."


                            Sen. Pacheco, who was a co-sponsor of the 1990 bill, says the act cut down on

                            illegal pollution because it provided officials with information as to who is using

                            the chemicals and where they are.


                            David Lutes, director of the Toxic Use Reduction Program at the state’s

                            Department of Environmental Affairs, is creating a new toxic-use bill, the draft of

                            which will be ready this fall. The bill will "streamline" the required reporting of

                            chemical use by companies, he says.


                            "Perhaps the act requires too much reporting and we need to reduce that," says

                            Lutes. "Elements of the reporting are not as useful as we had hoped."


                            He also says that since some particular companies are already committed to

                            protecting the environment without additional prodding, then the reporting

                            regulations detract vital resources from other environmental efforts by the

                            company. "They may have moved beyond the act so they need more flexibility."


                            Lutes says the new bill will possibly include other sectors of the economy not

                            currently under the act’s domain, such as hospitals and universities.


                            Despite criticism by industry officials that the toxic-use fee is unfair, Lutes says

                            that part of the act will continue.


                            Another criticism leveled at the current version is that state officials based in a

                            laboratory at UMass-Lowell sometimes recommend engaging out-of-state

                            companies to businesses seeking to clean various items.


                            "That is what they should be doing," says Lutes vehemently. "The whole purpose

                            is to clean the product effectively and benignly as possible. The lab is

                            recommending the best possible cleaning solution or cleaning system and that is

                            the way it goes."


                            Some Change is Needed


                            Rep. Petersen says he agrees there should be some change in the law. "The law is

                            a fairly blunt tool. Companies like Polaroid say the law is ludicrous because it

                            requires them to do things they have already done. Not all companies are created

                            equal, so we have to get rid of this cookie-cutter approach."


                            For other companies that need prodding to use fewer toxic chemicals, the law is

                            beneficial, says Petersen.


                            He adds that if the law is made more flexible, then perhaps the competitive

                            disadvantage experienced by in-state companies will be lessened.


                            The law has also faced some criticism from academics who fear that requiring

                            companies to disclose chemical ingredients makes them become more vulnerable

                            to spying.


                            William H. Lash, a law professor at George Mason University in Virginia and an

                            authority on public disclosure issues, says, "If I know what chemicals you are

                            using, I can figure out what you’re making and how much you’re making."


                            Gina McCarthy, executive secretary for Pollution Control, testified at the

                            September hearing that her office’s goal is to get a draft of new legislation out to

                            all stakeholders in October, with the hope of discussion in the legislature in the