Of broader regulatory interest is the launch by the European Commission of the first of several studies under its review of the Seveso II Directive (96/82/EC). This first study is on the “Effectiveness of the Seveso II Directive” and mainly focuses on: the adequacy of the directive to prevent major accidents and mitigate their consequences; the main requirements on site operators; the impact of the directive and how effectively it has been implemented, and whether it has created any market distortions.
Currently, the directive’s requirements are aimed at “preventing major accidents and mitigating their consequences, for the benefit of society and the environment.” However, the Commission emphasizes that non-uniform implementation of these requirements in the various member states can create significant market distortions within the EU. “If the requirements in Europe compared to other part of the world are too strict and the impacts of these requirements not obvious, then the competitiveness of the industry can be affected,” it notes.
Concerns about the lack of obvious benefits associated with regulations have also reared their head in Washington. In testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works, the Synthetic Organic Chemical Manufacturers Association (SOCMA), Washington, D.C., has urged the committee to “thoughtfully consider whether it is necessary or wise to adopt a monolithic new regulatory regime for chemical regulation like the EU’s registration, evaluation, authorization and restriction of chemicals (REACH) regulation.”
Though the committee hasn’t yet proposed legislation to mandate a new chemical policy similar to REACH, many in Washington believe this is likely to happen.
“An ‘American REACH’ would not only hamper innovation but would reverse the progress made over the course of many years by federal regulators and the chemical industry to appropriately manage risk,” testified Jim DeLisi, president of Fanwood Chemical, Fanwood, N.J., a SOCMA member.
He went on to say that whether or not REACH will improve either human health or the environment will not be known for years — while its ability to tie up regulators and commerce is already clear. “Americans cannot afford to emulate this unproven, highly bureaucratic approach to chemical regulation, especially when we already possess a system that has proven its mettle and needs only revitalization,” he concluded.
Non-Compliance Isn’t an Option
Whatever the merits or otherwise of potential new legislation, non-compliance remains an expensive option, as recent prosecutions show.
In July, for example, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Princeton, N.J., agreed to reduce the output of ozone-depleting refrigerants at multiple industrial facilities around the country at a combined cost of $3.65 million to resolve violations of the Clean Air Act. Under an agreement with the U.S. Justice Department and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the company has to retire or retrofit by July of this year 17 industrial refrigeration units that currently use hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) as refrigerants. The units are at facilities in Mt Vernon and Evansville, Ind., Hopewell, N.J., and Humacao and Mayaguez, Puerto Rico.
In addition, the company has agreed to perform a supplemental environment project that will involve retiring two comfort cooling units at its New Brunswick, N.J., plant and connecting the air conditioners to the company’s new centralized refrigeration system. The new system uses water-chilled coolers which act as the refrigerant to minimize the use of chemical agents in the chilling process.
Combined, these measures will remove over 6,350 pounds of HCFCs from the company’s operations. In addition, it will take additional steps to assure compliance with EPA regulations at thirteen of its facilities and pay $127,000 in civil penalties.
“Bristol-Myers Squibb has acted responsibly, not only to discover, document, and correct past violations, but to eliminate the use of potentially-damaging refrigerants in its operations,” said Granta Nakayama, Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “These actions will help to protect the ozone layer, ensuring a safer environment for our future generations.”
Also in July, acetate manufacturer Celanese Acetate, Narrows, Va., agreed to pay $60,000 to resolve alleged violations of the federal Clean Air Act. The EPA cited the company for problems related to the monitoring and repairing of equipment at Celanese’s Celco plant in Narrows.
EPA alleges that in 2003 Celanese failed to perform a required test on a continuous emissions monitor for nitrogen oxides on a boiler at the Celco plant, in violation of the Clean Air Act and the Commonwealth of Virginia’s state implementation plan for controling nitrogen oxide pollution. In addition, the company failed to monitor valves, connectors and heat exchangers; to repair a leaking connector; to cap an open-ended line; and to include all required information in its regulatory reporting documents. The failures also violate Celanese’s operating permit mandated under the Clean Air Act.
Since these violations, Celanese has increased its efforts to monitor and detect for leaks of hazardous air pollutants, says the EPA.
Seán Ottewell is editor at large for Chemical Processing. You can e-mail him at email@example.com.