Vermont Governor Phil Scott has issued an executive order establishing an interagency committee on chemical management. It is tasked with making recommendations to the governor around reporting processes and regulatory requirements for substances that pose potential risk to human health and the environment. The committee’s membership comprises leadership from several state agencies, including the Department of Health and Agency of Natural Resources. By 1 July next year, it must make initial recommendations on how the state should strengthen its toxics use reduction and hazardous waste reporting. And by 15 December 2018, and biennially thereafter, it must recommend to the governor “any necessary legislative or regulatory actions to reduce risks to Vermonters from unsafe chemicals”.
The directive follows the legislatures consideration of a bill (S 103) earlier this year that would have made significant changes to how the state manages toxic substances. Formation of an interagency committee to examine chemicals was one of dozens of items called for in the far-reaching legislation. The measure widely opposed by industry groups failed to pass into law before the end of the legislative session. William Driscoll, vice president of the Associated Industries of Vermont, said the group supports the governor’s creation of the committee. “We are especially hopeful that the committee will be able to find ways to streamline and possibly consolidate existing regulations and find other ways to ease compliance burdens,” he said. The American Chemistry Council (ACC) also supported the executive order. It added that the committee should be given time to get up and running before any new legislative action is taken up in Vermont. But Johanna deGraffenreid, environmental advocate with the Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG), said that far more needs to be done to ensure protection from toxic chemicals, and the executive order is in no ways seen as a replacement to S 103. The order, she told Chemical Watch, fails to address several areas of the legislation outside of toxics reduction, including those addressing chemicals of concern in children’s products (Act 188). In this respect, the bill had called for codifying the requirement to report UPC (bar code) level details on products to give the public clearer information. It would have also given the commissioner of the Department of Health increased authority to propose rules to regulate substances of concern, without the approval of a working group that includes industry participants. The executive order also limits the focus of the intergovernmental committee on chemical management to reporting on toxics use reduction, rather than on monitoring and developing policy recommendations for all sources of chemicals of concern. And it prescribes that the committee’s recommendations go only to the governor, whereas the bill directs these to the legislature. S 103 passed the Senate and was “strengthened” in the House, said Ms deGraffenreid, but the changes were not co-approved by the Senate before the legislative session expired. However, VPIRG expects the Senate to pass the more comprehensive House version of the bill early next session and to send it to the governor’s desk to be signed into law. And she said that it remains a priority for the organisation to pursue legislation that “addresses chemicals in all consumer products and food packaging” in the coming legislative sessions. In the meantime, she said the order is “a good first step, but we need bold action from our state legislature and governor to address this pervasive and urgent issue.” Further information is available at:
Chemical Watch, 10 August 2017 ; http://chemicalwatch.com