Reach (blog): Commission Paves Way for Substitution
6:36 AM MDT | March 26, 2010 | By ALEX SCOTT
I got a sense at a meeting yesterday at the European Chemical Agency’s headquarters in Helsinki that the higher echelons of the European Commission-as represented by commission vice president Antonio Tajani, and environment commissioner Janez Potocnik-felt the commission had taken its collective eye off Reach. Both commission men yesterday made their first visit to the headquarters in Helsinki–the furthest northern outpost of any commission agency-looking to make amends.
Shape of things to come: EU Commission
V.P. Antonio Tajani lays out his plans for
action on SVHCs
Mr Tajani couldn’t have been friendlier to Geert Dancet, his host and head of ECHA, publicly congratulating the ECHA man on providing services that recently have been rated as best in class of any commission agency. Tajani even promised to come back and give a speech at ECHA’s annual stakeholder day in Helsinki in May.
The commissioners were in town not only to show support for the agency but to show that the commission is looking to drive the Reach process along in any way that it can. Reach’s impending first registration deadline of November 30 of this year certainly seems to have focused minds within the commission: In yesterday’s meeting the commission disclosed that 106 chemicals will be added to the 29 already on the candidate list of chemicals classified as Substances of Very High Concern (SVHC) by 2012. Under Reach, the commission could then impose restrictions on the use of these candidate-list substances depending on factors including the availability of alternative substances.
This represents a huge step toward Reach’s ultimate goal of substituting chemicals that pose an unacceptable risk to human health and environment.
Significantly, the announcement follows three years of deadlock between commission departments for enterprise and environment about how and when to handle SVHCs. So does this mean the floodgates are now open? Who knows, but the commission has suggested that the number of SVHCs to be added to the candidate list after 2012 will be more free-flowing than of late: “We have not said this is the end of our work-this is the beginning,” Tajani said of the process. Commissioner Potocnik went one step further suggesting that all SVHC substances should be placed on the candidate list by 2020.
As Satu Hassi, a member of the European Parliament (MEP), said at yesterday’s meeting, 400-plus SVHCs could readily be identified and quickly placed onto the candidate list. Although the commission expressed a willingness to add more SVHCs to the candidate list it says it is limited in doing so by ECHA’s processing capacity.
In another initiative unveiled yesterday, the commission announced a series of measures aimed at making the Reach process as easy as possible for small companies. The message repeated over and over by the commissioners was “we’re taking action.”
As summarised by this journalist the other part of the commissioners’ message to industry was ‘now its your turn to do your bit.’ Any prospects of an easing of the November 30 registration appear to be dead and buried: Potocnik repeated his assertion that although he had “sympathy” for those companies registering products, the deadline could not-and would not-be changed under any circumstances.
Those seeking to submit dossiers regardless of whether they contain all of the required information also got a shot across the bow yesterday with MEP Hassi calling for ECHA to evaluate 10%-and not the agreed 5%-of all submitted Reach dossiers on account of recent registrations showing a 50% failure of compliance.
Pressure was already on industry to deliver on the November 30 deadline. Yesterday’s announcements also bring into focus the spectre that many companies will soon have to decide which products to substitute and when.
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