October 31, 2017

Manufacturers want relief from chemicals law

Flickr/Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism
Manufacturers are asking for lawmakers to ease the requirements of a chemical use law.

Bullet-proof vests, armored trucks, green roofing and consumer goods that keep kitchens bacteria-free are all the products of chemistry, an industry whose manufacturers and distributors gathered at the State House Monday to highlight their economic impact and ask lawmakers for an assist.

Katherine Robertson, executive director of the Massachusetts Chemistry and Technology Alliance, said her group's members often find themselves at a competitive disadvantage when compared with companies based elsewhere, as Massachusetts is the only state to impose a fee on users of large quantities of certain chemicals.

The fee is part of the Toxic Use Reduction Act, a state law designed to cut down on the use of certain toxic materials. The law also requires businesses to submit plans every two years outlining steps they will take to reduce toxic chemical use -- another provision unique to Massachusetts, Robertson said -- and to report on their use of listed chemicals.

The alliance is backing a bill sponsored by Rep. John Mahoney of Worcester that would amend the Toxic Use Reduction Act to allow fee waivers when companies are required to use the listed chemicals to bid on public contracts.

Solicitations from federal agencies like the the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security and the Food and Drug Administration often spell out what chemicals must be used, Robertson said.

"They don't have a choice to use something else," she told the News Service.

Mahoney's bill (H 2934) also aims to ease the frequency at which toxics reduction plans are required. Businesses must now submit a plan every two years, and the bill would change that to one initial plan, a follow-up two years later, and successive plans every six years afterward.

The bill has one other sponsor -- Rep. Daniel Donohue of Worcester -- and is before the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture, which held a hearing on it two weeks ago.

Passed in 1989, the Toxics Use Reduction Act was last amended in 2006. Its annual fees, according to the Department of Environmental Protection, are based on a formula that considers how many workers the company has and the number of listed chemicals it manufactures, processes or otherwise uses above allowable thresholds.

The law's requirements cover more than 1,500 chemicals.

"Some of our members just want to get rid of TURA, but by and large it's there, and you're not going to get rid of it, and it serves a purpose," Robertson said.

Robertson said another goal of the lobby day was to highlight the positive impacts of chemistry and related manufacturing.

According to the alliance, chemistry in Massachusetts is a $7.6 billion industry, directly providing 17,639 jobs plus another 10,720 related jobs. The field generates $2.5 billion in payroll and $110 million in state and local taxes.

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