US Subcommittee Examines Toxic Substances Control Act, IP Protection

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By Kelly Burke for Intellectual Property Watch

A subcommittee of the United States House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee today heard arguments for and against greater chemical regulation and trade secret protection in its review of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The hearing also examined the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s role in regulation.

Titled “Regulation of New Chemicals, Protection of Confidential Business Information, and Innovation,” the hearing asked witnesses to address two key areas under TSCA and its effect on innovation:  the regulation of new chemicals (TSCA section 5) and the protection of proprietary business information (TSCA section 14).

Industry representatives applauded the EPA’s “effective” and “timely” chemical review process. One representative opposed “any change in policy affecting the opportunity to claim confidentiality in chemical identities, because of the significant impact it would have on the industry’s ability to compete in the domestic and global markets.”

But one academic on the panel said the chemical industry “should have a limited time during within which the information submitted to the EPA will be considered proprietary,” after which it should be made publicly available.

Despite the differences, all witnesses vocalised that protection of confidential business information must be balanced by appropriate government and public access to health and safety information.

A paper [pdf] submitted by the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), referenced in the hearing by a committee member, said the TSCA has further to go in properly balancing these interests. The paper also offered findings that stricter laws spur the innovation of safer chemical alternatives (IPW, US Policy, 26 February 2013).

Full committee and witness testimonies, along with a video of the hearing, can be found here.

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