Rachel's Precaution Reporter #59

"Foresight and Precaution, in the News and in the World"

Wednesday, October 11, 2006..........Printer-friendly version
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Table of Contents...

European Parliament Strengthens REACH; Business Grows Anxious
  Latest news on REACH: The phase out of toxic chemicals as supported
  in the [European] Parliament's Environment Committee is causing
  anxiety among business organisations but has been welcomed by health
  organisations, environmental groups and trade unions.
EU Sets Stage for Fight on Chemicals
  The REACH legislation has become the most dramatic example of
  Europe's "precautionary principle" of regulation. In contrast to the
  U.S. approach, it requires businesses to show that the substances they
  put on the market are safe, rather than requiring regulators to prove
  why they should be banned.
European Parliament Throws REACH Talks Wide Open
  Jubilant environmentalists hailed the committee vote on REACH as a
  "vital step towards protecting health and environment from chemical
  contamination." The chemical manufacturing sector will be wincing but
  consumer product maker Unilever, a big downstream user of chemicals,
  welcomed the vote.
Nova Scotia Residents Stone Cold To Quarry Proposal
  Mr. Mullin believes that if the governments adhere to a
  precautionary principle, the quarry will not go ahead.
  "The rational person in me says it can't go forward based on what we
  don't know the blasting will do to the lobsters, the marine mammals,"
  he said.


From: EurActiv, Oct. 11, 2006
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Chemicals Policy review (REACH)

Parties unite on EU chemicals safety law (REACH)


The draft REACH regulation (Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation
of Chemicals) proposes that manufacturers and importers of chemicals
produce health and safety tests for around 30,000 chemical substances
currently on the EU market over an 11-year period.

The bill is now entering a crucial second-reading phase in the
European Parliament with a final endorsement by EU ministers likely
before the end of the year.


The Parliament's chief negotiator on REACH, the Italian socialist
Guido Sacconi MEP, received a massive show of support in the
Parliament's Environment Committee on 10 October, winning 42 votes out
of 63.

Here are the main elements agreed by the Committee:

** Mandatory substitution of the most toxic substances whenever this
is economically and socially acceptable;

** a review of authorisations granted to these chemicals every five
years in order that they are eventually replaced;

** a 'Duty of care' principle to ensure that producers and importers
of chemicals take responsibility for the safety of their products when
the risks can be "reasonably foreseen";

** the introduction of a European 'REACH quality label', to be
proposed by the Commission after REACH is approved, so that products
complying with the EU law can be easily identified by consumers;

** the promotion of alternatives to animal testing, and;

** support measures for small businesses.


The European Chemicals Industry Council (CEFIC) said that the
substitution of toxic chemicals as voted by the Committee would "lead
to the banning of certain substances even though there are clear
socio-economic benefits and no alternative is available".

"This situation could encourage a lot of producers to move out of
Europe," CEFIC warned.

However, it also believes it is now "time that the regulation finally
gets adopted", and joined the socialists' calls for the Council and
Parliament to "avoid conciliation".

For CEFIC, the key could reside in clarifying certain definitions, as
was already suggested by Guido Sacconi an interview with EurActiv
earlier this month.

"Providing a clearer understanding of the concept of 'adequate
control' [of dangerous substances] and a definition of 'safe
alternatives' [to them], could pave the way for a final solution that
would be workable and improve the protection of health and the
environment," CEFIC said.

UNICE, the European employers' union, said that it was "disappointed"
that the Committee disregarded the Council's views on substitution
which are "based on the concept of adequate control of risk".

It also called on EU lawmakers to sit down at the negotiating table.
"The European Parliament, Council and Commission must continue their
efforts to achieve a cost-effective and workable REACH before the
plenary," said UNICE President Ernest-Antoine Seilliere.

Unilever, the Dutch company with well-known brands in the detergents,
soap and food sector, welcomed the vote, saying REACH "constitutes a
unique opportunity to simplify existing chemical legislation while
enhancing consumer confidence in chemicals".

Unilever now urges EU lawmakers in the Parliament and Council to move
on and "find consensus" on a final version of REACH "that truly serves
the interests of European Consumers".

UEAPME, the European small-businesses association -- which represents
both small chemical producers and downstream manufacturers who use
chemicals in their products -- was only partially encouraged by the

"According to UEAPME, the Environment Committee showed consideration
for European SMEs by clarifying clauses on cost sharing and approving
proposals facilitating the implementation of REACH by small
businesses. Furthermore, MEPs appropriately shunned dangerous plans to
extend the deadline for data liberalisation from ten to fifteen

But it added that the Committee "overlooked a crucial issue for SMEs
by rejecting calls for an independent evaluation of the opt-outs" from
the OSOR system (One Substance One Registration) which forces
companies to share registration fees when filing an application for a
similar substance.

"UEAPME regretted that the European Chemicals Agency will ultimately
not be responsible for assessing exceptions" to the OSOR system.

On the other hand, small businesses "greeted with satisfaction" the
"clarifications" brought to the way registration fees are to be shared
under OSOR. Following the Committee's vote, the higher the production
or import volume of a chemical, the higher the share.

"Today's vote on REACH entails some positive elements for European
small businesses, albeit not quite to the extent we hoped it would,"
said Guido Lena, UEAPME director for environmental policy. In
particular, UEAPME said that: "Burdensome procedures on substances
produced in smaller quantities will nullify their benefits and put a
further strain on SMEs working with chemicals in Europe."

The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) said it supported the
Committee's vote, saying the substitution principle is "wholly in line
with European Carcinogens Directive 2004/37/EC which requires
employers to replace these dangerous substances where a safer
alternative is available".

Environmental groups WWF and Greenpeace -- together with women's,
health and consumer organisations, welcomed the vote was "a vital step
towards protecting health and the environment from chemical

For them, the vote "sends a strong message back to the [EU Council of
Ministers] that MEPs remain determined that chemicals of very high
concern should be replaced with safer alternatives whenever possible".
They said a legal obligation to do so would only "drive innovation" in
safer chemicals, not hamper industrial activity.

WWF also welcomed the inclusion of a "duty of care" principle to make
chemical producers responsible for the safety of their products, as
well as the Committee's backing for more information for consumers
about chemicals in everyday products.

Latest & next steps:

14 November 2006: Expected vote in Parliament plenary.

4 December 2006: Probable vote in Council (Competitiveness) and final
approval of REACH.

If the Parliament and Council fail to agree, a special Conciliation
Committee will be convened to iron out remaining differences.


EU official documents

[European] Parliament (Press release): REACH: firm stand by
Environment Committee at second reading (10 Oct. 2006)

[European] Parliament: Report: REACH recommendation for second
reading, Guido Sacconi MEP [Member of the European Parliament](23
June 2006)

EU Actors positions

European Chemical Industry Council (CEFIC): Environment Committee
Vote in 2nd reading hampers ability of REACH to achieve its goals (10
Oct. 2006)

UNICE: REACH vote in the Environment Committee: Authorisation and
substitution create serious problems for industry (10 Oct. 2006)

UEAPME: REACH: EP Environment Committee vote delivers mixed results
for SMEs (10 Oct. 2006)

European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC): REACH: ETUC calls on
Council to go with Parliament on substitution principle (10 Oct.

WWF / Euro Coop / EEB / Greenpeace et al.: REACH -- European
Parliament committee backs safer chemicals rules (10 Oct. 2006)

Related Documents

Parties unite on EU chemicals safety law (REACH) (10 October 2006)

Business gearing up for new EU chemicals policy (06 October 2006)

Chemicals: Does the consumer know? (06 October 2006)

UK Tory leader switches to REACH (05 October 2006)

Chemical imbalance? SMEs still worried about REACH (05 October 2006)

Copyright EurActiv 2000-2005

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From: International Herald Tribune, Oct. 11, 2006
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By Dan Bilefsky, International Herald Tribune

The European Parliament's powerful environmental committee approved
tough new rules Tuesday regulating the bloc's €400 billion chemical
industry, presaging a tense showdown between the European Union and
the world's biggest chemical companies, which argue that the
regulations risk damaging business and hurting global trade.

At issue is EU legislation, known as Reach, for the registration,
evaluation and authorization of chemicals, which would shift the
burden of proof from regulators to businesses when it comes to the
safety of up to 30,000 commonly used industrial chemicals.

The legislation has become the most dramatic example of Europe's
"precautionary principle" of regulation. In contrast to the U.S.
approach, it requires businesses to show that the substances they put
on the market are safe, rather than requiring regulators to prove why
they should be banned.

The U.S. government initially feared that $150 billion of its exports
could be affected. The U.S. chemical industry has estimated that the
proposal could cost U.S. companies alone some $8 billion during the
next decade. But EU lawmakers counter that all chemical companies will
need to either conform to the EU's more stringent standards, or risk
missing out on a European market of 470 million consumers, which is
now larger than the United States.

Products ranging from certain plastics to some materials used by
pharmaceutical companies could be affected, as well as industrial
solvents like ethyl benzene and heavy metals like cadmium used in some
paints. A number of low-risk substances like the polymers used in food
packaging and shopping bags are likely to be totally or partly
exempted from registration requirements.

The legislation has caused such concern in the United States that, in
April 2004, the secretary of state then, Colin Powell, sent out a
seven-page cable to U.S. embassies in all of the EU's 25 member states
questioning the legislation's overly cautious approach and warning
that it "could present obstacles to trade and innovation." Some
European governments, including Germany, Britain and France, have also
expressed fears that it could dampen the bloc's competitiveness.

Some nongovernmental organizations like Greenpeace charge that German
industry, led by the chemical and pharmaceutical giant Bayer, used its
sway to try and water down the legislation that was first discussed by
ministers in 1998. Margot Wallstrom, deputy president of the European
Commission and the former environment commissioner, described the
lobbying as the most intense that she had experienced.

In the draft rules adopted by the Parliament's environmental
committee, which still must be approved by the Parliament as a whole
and by EU member governments, EU lawmakers have backed regulations
forcing chemical companies to substitute dangerous chemicals with
safer alternatives if such alternatives exist. The rules are designed
to protect consumers from the potentially hazardous effects of
chemicals found in everyday products.

Guido Sacconi, an Italian lawmaker from the Socialist Group who is
steering the package through Parliament, said, for example, that toxic
chemicals found used in a ballpoint pen would potentially need to be
substituted if a safer alternative were available, even if the pen had
been on the market for years and the substitute was more expensive to

"There are possibly toxic substances in this pen," he said, waiving
his pen in the air at a press conference. "If a safer alternative is
available, then it should be substituted." He added that the
additional cost to the chemical industry of using a safer and more
expensive substance would be more than offset by the alternative of
being forced to close factories producing a chemical deemed to be
unsafe. He noted, however, that a hazardous substance could be allowed
if the benefits outweighed the risks.

But industry fears that the strict criteria and inherent cautiousness
of EU regulators could lead to the banning even of substances that
have clear benefits for public health. The registration process could
prove onerous, they charge, and could compromise trade secrets.

Franco Bisegna, head of government affairs at the European Chemical
Industry Council, said the substitution rule was an unfair burden on
business. Citing a hypothetical example, he said that if a flame
retardant used in the upholstery of an airplane passenger seat was
deemed to be risky by the EU, a company could be forced to stop using
it or to substitute it, at potentially enormous cost.

"What if the flame retardant was banned and there was no substitute?"
he said. "It's better to have an airline seat with antiflame retardant
than one that would be vulnerable in case of fire -- we need to look
the social benefits as well as the risks." The chemicals industry is
also concerned about proposals by the Parliament forcing chemical
companies to review permits for the most hazardous substances every
five years. Under the rules, manufacturers would also have to register
the properties of chemicals in an EU database.

But EU lawmakers counter that the tougher standards will prevent as
many as 4,500 deaths a year. They say that the safety benefits for
consumers more than outweigh the added costs to business. EU
regulators said the tougher standards would cost as much as €5.2
billion, or $6.5 billion, to producers and users over 15 years, when
they introduced the legislation in 2003.

Bisegna said that the regulations would affect all multinational
chemical companies doing business in Europe and that U.S. fears about
the legislation were exaggerated.

"If Reach is supposedly going to make European chemical producers less
competitive, then shouldn't the U.S. be happy?" he asked. "If industry
can't solve its competitiveness problems, I don't think it will be
Reach that will have given it its kiss of death."

Reach would require the chemicals industry to test the safety of the
30,000 or so chemicals that have been on the market across the world
without any significant testing of their toxicity on human health and
the environment. These substances would require registration with an
EU agency.

Only about a third of 140 potentially high-risk substances on the
market before 1981 underwent full assessments, according to the

The European Parliament is planning a final vote on the directive in
November or December; if approved, the directive then must be cleared
by EU member governments. That still leaves time for the lobbying
process to continue.

Copyright 2006 the International Herald Tribune

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From: ENDS Europe DAILY, Oct. 10, 2006
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The European parliament's environment committee has adopted a string
of strongly pro-environment changes to EU governments' first-reading
position on the Reach chemical policy reform. The move is likely to
force significant concessions from governments as the Reach
negotiations enter their final stages.

Voting at its second reading of the law on Tuesday morning, the
committee repeated the parliament's earlier insistence on stronger
rules for replacing dangerous chemicals with safer alternatives. But
it went further by reversing the parliament's acceptance of several
concessions to industry that were adopted by the council of ministers
(see sidebar, below).

Italian socialist rapporteur MEP Guido Sacconi, who saw the committee
back almost all of his proposals, called the move a "politically
respectable decision". The package of changes was backed by 42 votes
to 12, with six abstentions. But his counterpart from the centre-
right EPP party, Dutch MEP Ria Oomen-Ruijten, complained that the
committee's version of Reach would be "almost impossible to put into

The vote will trigger talks between the parliament and council of
ministers as they seek to avoid entering the conciliation procedure, a
politically-hazardous process of last-minute horse-trading that would
delay adoption of Reach. Diplomats meet on Thursday and Friday to
discuss the outcome of the vote.

Had the committee's support for changes to the ministerial position
been weaker, governments might have been tempted to gamble that the
parliament's plenary assembly, which tends to take a more conservative
line on environment policy, would reject them. This would have
allowed the ministerial position to enter force largely intact.

But the scale of changes suggested by the committee is such that
governments are likely to seek a deal that could be endorsed by both
the plenary session and by ministers. Mr Sacconi predicted that the
chances of avoiding conciliation were now 70 per cent. Other
parliamentary sources said the council would be almost certain to

The talks will focus on Reach's authorisation provisions. The
rapporteur gave a hint of his bottom line in the talks: as a minimum
there should be an assessment of alternatives for all substances of
high concern, and authorisations should not be granted if they are
found to be available, he said.

Jubilant environmentalists hailed the committee vote as a "vital step
towards protecting health and environment from chemical
contamination." The chemical manufacturing sector will be wincing but
consumer product maker Unilever, a big downstream user of chemicals,
welcomed the vote. Organisations representing small and medium-sized
business said the result contained both positives and negatives.

Follow-up: European parliament environment committee

See also Green NGOs press release, plus releases from the
Socialists, the EPP [European People's Party], the Liberals, and
the Greens.


Sidebar: Committee's second-reading Reach vote in detail

At their second reading of the EU's Reach regulation in Brussels on
Tuesday MEPs [members of the European Parliament] on the environment
committee challenged governments by adopting a position significantly
greener than the one adopted by the parliament's plenary session last
year. In the words of one parliamentary source favouring an
environmentally robust Reach: "they kept all the good bits and threw
out all the bad bits".


Reach's scope would be expanded by including polymers under the
regulation within at the latest six years.


The committee's preferred version of this stage of Reach would place
significantly more responsibilities on firms: chemical safety reports
would be required for substances produced between 1 and 10 tonnes.
More basic data would also be required for these. More downstream
uses would have to be reported and there would be earlier registration
of some substances in the range up to 100 tonnes.


The key difference of opinion with ministers from first reading
remains: MEPs want mandatory substitution of VHCs [very high concern
chemicals] where alternatives exist. Dangerous chemicals would only
be authorised for use if there were no alternative, if the
socioeconomic benefits outweighed the risks and if the risk could be
adequately controlled. The council of ministers, meanwhile, says some
dangerous substances should continue to be used if their risks can be
controlled, irrespective of whether alternatives exist.

In addition the parliament said authorisations should be limited to
five years, that they should always be accompanied by a substitution
plan, and that all dangerous substances should appear on a candidate
list of substances for authorisation. The parliament would be able to
veto European commission decisions on authorisations. Nanoparticles
would be covered by authorisation, but ores and concentrates would be
exempt. There would be earlier restrictions on substances of very
high concern (VHCs) contained in imported consumer articles.


There would be a general and legally binding duty of care on
manufacturers to make, handle and use their products in ways that do
not harm health or the environment.


The promotion of non-animal testing would be included as an overall
objective of Reach. There would be automatic replacement of animal
tests as soon as alternatives were available.


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From: Toronto Globe and Mail, Oct. 10, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]


Massive gravel pit will ruin way of life on bucolic coastline,
opponents fear

By Shawna Richer

SANDY COVE, N.S. -- The sign at the foot of Rick and Jill Klein's
driveway advertising waterfront property for sale was pitched
reluctantly this summer.

Natives of Washington, the recently retired couple paid $149,000 four
years ago for the 4.5-acre property on Digby Neck with sweeping views
of St. Mary's Bay.

The tidy, century-old farmhouse is their summer retirement home. They
winter in Melbourne Beach, Fla., but have fallen in love with Nova
Scotia's rugged, bucolic peninsula.

But since arriving, the Kleins, along with hundreds of other Digby
Neck residents, have found themselves with an unexpected May-October
hobby: fighting a large gravel quarry proposed for nearby White's

The quarry, owned by Bilcon of Nova Scotia and controlled by the
Clayton Group, a U.S. conglomerate that includes concrete
manufacturers, will devour 155 hectares of spectacular coastline

Coveted basalt gravel, the result of an ancient lava flow and perfect
for asphalt, will be mined and shipped to the United States by
freighter from a marine terminal that is also planned. Bilcon will
blast, grind and ship about two million tonnes of crushed rock from
the site each year.

"An industrial site of that size does not fit on Digby Neck," Mr.
Klein said, showing the breathtaking view from his backyard.

"To have this thing going down here... it will compromise
fishermen's jobs and people's health, ecotourism, the environment and
a community's quality of life.

"It's so quiet here now I can hear a hummingbird coming up from the
beach before it crests the hill. That's what put us here. When that
quarry comes, blasting 50,000 pounds of explosives once a week, there
will be sounds here you'll never hear again."

In a province bursting with postcard-perfect places, this peninsula is
one of the prettiest.

Just five kilometres wide and 40 kilometres long, the Neck, dotted
with fishing villages and tourist stops, stretches along the southwest
corner of the province.

The gentle clam beds of St. Mary's Bay are on one side; rare right
whales and the eye-popping tides of the Bay of Fundy on the other.
This place is home to some of the best whale watching in North America
and is part of the most productive lobster fishery in the world.

Nearly 30 per cent of the lobster sold in North America comes from

When the project was proposed in 2002, a petition with more than 700
names quickly followed, as did the formation of a coalition to stop
the quarry.

"The threat to the lobster fishery is serious," said Don Mullin, vice-
chairman of the opposing group.

"We do not paint ourselves as a bunch of granola-eating tree huggers
who don't want development. But the size of the project is completely
inappropriate for the area. To have it pushed onto a fragile
ecosystem, the culmination of risks is enormous."

Kemp Stanton's family has been fishing off White's Cove for 150 years.
He is certain the quarry, once operating, will displace the 33 boats
that work the area.

"It's rather insulting," he said, "to find out you're insignificant.
That's what we take from this plan. This is the last chance for people
like us to prove we can win this. If we can't win this, we can't win
anything; it's that sensible that this shouldn't be here."

The project is under a panel review; Bilcon has until Nov. 15 to
answer public comments on the environmental-impact statement. Public
hearings will follow next year and the company hopes for a green light
from federal and provincial Environment departments.

Project manager Paul Buxton said the company has complied with all
environmental guidelines, presenting nearly 20 consultants who said
the project will do no environmental harm and will benefit the local
economy by creating jobs. Mr. Buxton said that if all goes well,
Bilcon will break ground later in 2007.

"I'm absolutely convinced this quarry can be done in an
environmentally sound manner," he said.

"As far as tourism is concerned, you wouldn't even know it's there
from [the highway]. We do not believe there will be any significant,
adverse environmental affects.

"The opposition is coming from a relatively small group. They've done
a very good job of being heard but that doesn't mean there is
unanimous opposition to the quarry; very far from it," Mr. Buxton

He said 21 people from nearby Little River attended a recent meeting
Bilcon held to talk about jobs at the quarry.

On the weekend, the Kleins headed south for the winter, uncertain of
whether they would be back for the long term.

Even Mr. Mullin is considering returning to his native New Brunswick
if the quarry comes. But he believes that if the governments adhere to
a precautionary principle, the quarry will not go ahead.

"The rational person in me says it can't go forward based on what we
don't know the blasting will do to the lobsters, the marine mammals,"
he said.

"Look, we don't want to protect this place to freeze it in time. We
want to protect it because it's precious and fragile. The community
has made it very clear it doesn't want the quarry. Would there be
civil unrest if it goes ahead? I think there would be. That's not a
threat. But this is our way of life, our sense of place about to be

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