Household and  Commercial Products Association Urges a Strong Environmental Protection Agency
Underscoring its willingness to work with a variety of stakeholders, HCPA President and CEO Steve Caldeira called on Congress to fully fund the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). At last month’s annual meeting, Caldeira noted there is no shortage of public policy issues currently impacting the household and commercial products industry. These issues are even more in focus in a divided Federal government. Changes are underway at the state level, too.

“We will have to change our legislative and regulatory approach in some states to account for new political dynamics.” said Caldeira in his annual address.

Caldeira noted that Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota and Pennsylvania all experienced  notable power shifts. But regardless of the state, Caldeira said HCPA’s priority issues include bills and regulations on producer responsibility, plastics, chemicals of concern in consumer products, household hazardous waste, labeling and sustainability.

He warned that with a divided Congress in 2023, it will be difficult to pass legislation such as the Pesticide Registration Improvement Act (PRIA).

“That’s why it’s so important to pass PRIA this year before the new session of Congress begins in January,” he explained.

Mike Gruber, the Association’s top lobbyist, is leading the PRIA Coalition in drafting key provisions for the bill and coordinating meetings with Congressional staff to further educate them about the importance of this legislation. According to Caldeira, due to a lack of resources, the EPA  has struggled to meet pesticide registration deadlines and failing to reauthorize PRIA will only make matters worse. Moreover, he predicted spending bills will also become difficult to pass in 2023.

After years of neglect from the previous administration and Congress, the EPA’s troubles have opened the door for states to create their own—often conflicting and costly— regulations, according to Caldeira.

“It’s critical that we get the EPA the resources it needs to operate as it was intended,” he said.

HCPA has taken a lead role in advocating for a stronger EPA with op-ed pieces and letters to the editor, in addition to its lobbying efforts.

Caldeira admitted that, from members’ point of view, the EPA has a lot of improvements to make. But he said the Agency deserves a lot of credit for making do with what it has, such as an outdated software system.

“Years of Congressional neglect has forced the EPA to triage one problem after another—and only Congress can provide the funding the Agency requires,” he said.

HCPA is also a proponent of EPA’s Safer Choice program. In fact, the Association earned EPA’s 2022 Safer Choice Partner of the Year Award. It marked the seventh time in eight years that HCPA earned the honor. Safer Choice helps consumers and workers identify products that possess an excellent environmental, health and safety profile. In 2022, several HCPA members earned Safer Choice Partner of the Year Awards, including Bona, Church & Dwight, Clorox, Jelmar, Novozymes, Procter & Gamble, Purpose Built Brands and Reckitt.

But even a stronger EPA may not curtail legislative activity at the state level. For example, HCPA staff is currently managing Extended Producer Responsibility implementation in California, Colorado, Maine and Oregon. All four states passed EPR legislation. Caldeira explained that other states are planning to pass their own EPR bills, createing a patchwork of producer responsibility laws across the country. California, Colorado and Maine are also involved in PFAS implementation. All three passed laws that prohibit the sale of products containing intentionally added PFAS and require manufacturers to report the presence of the substance. HCPA is working with state agencies to identify exemptions before other states adopt similar legislation.

“This situation is made even more complicated by the fact that there is not currently a universal definition of PFAS based on science, making it difficult for manufacturers to determine if the substance is in a product process, formulation or packaging,” observed Caldeira.

In other states, Vermont is leading the charge on household hazardous waste legislation; Caldeira predicted it is only a matter of time before this issue emerges in other states. In anticipation of this increased activity, HCPA established a task force to inform the development of a policy position on waste collection approaches.  In New York, at press time, HCPA was working on implementation challenges before the 1,4-dioxane ban on consumer products went into effect.

In the nation’s capital, HCPA opposes a proposal in Washington, DC that would restrict the sale of consumer pesticides that are used in homes and businesses to protect public health.

HCPA continues to monitor activity in California and the European Union to restrict microplastics in consumer and commercial products. The EU is also proposing to amend the fragrance allergens list, which will impact ingredient disclosure under the California Cleaning Product Right to Know Act. When the proposed amendments are finalized in Europe, companies selling cleaning products in the US will be responsible for updating their fragrance allergen disclosures, observed Caldeira.

In June, Caldeira and Nicholas Georges, SVP-scientific and international affairs, traveled to Brussels to meet with the head of Bio-economy, Chemicals & Cosmetics for the European Commission in Brussels to discuss the Green Deal, product labeling, the essential use concept and ingredient disclosure. On that trip, they met with representatives from the British Aerosol Manufacturers Association, the European Aerosol Federation, the International Association for Soaps, Detergents and Maintenance Products, the International Fragrance Association, and the International Network of Cleaning Product Associations.

“As we well know, legislation and regulations in Europe often influence policy in the US, so it’s critical that we continue to foster these relationships with international trade associations,” he explained.

Elsewhere, Caldeira noted that Mexico continues to pursue VOC regulations based on the EPA’s national regulation for consumer products. Canada recently published a VOC regulation based on the California Air Resources Board’s 20-10 Consumer Products Regulation. The regulation took effect on January 1, but the VOC limits become enforceable in 2024.

Back in the US, Caldeira noted that in addition to California, 10 other states and the District of Columbia are creating new or revising existing VOC regulations. 

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