WASHINGTON - The plastics industry's political agenda in 2002 will be as broad as the industry itself, ranging from industry-specific concerns like state recycling legislation and federal clean-air rules, to more general concerns, such as protecting natural gas availability in energy-policy debates.
The year also is likely to see important bread-and-butter fights in Washington, from attempts by the mold-making industry to push for import restrictions to, conversely, attempts by other industry trade groups to pursue more of a free-trade agenda by getting the president to fast-track trade negotiating authority.
In Washington, the industry's concerns, like most political issues, will continue to take a back seat to the war on terrorism.
The Society of the Plastics Industry Inc., which represents processors, equipment manufacturers and materials suppliers, has energy legislation as its top federal priority.
The group wants to protect the availability of natural gas, which is a primary raw material to make plastic and is considered a cleaner, and increasingly popular, fuel for power plants.
One potential unwanted wrinkle in natural gas supplies will be attempts by key senators and the Bush administration to pass a multipollutant bill that limits emissions. That is likely to spur more use of natural gas as a power source, according to Maureen Healey, chief regulatory and state affairs officer for the Washington-based SPI.
The trade group also wants to build stronger ties with the new director of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, who has a chemical industry background, Healey said. Director John Henshaw said at an SPI meeting in early December that he ``looks more toward compliance, not enforcement,'' Healey said.
SPI also wants to pursue economic-stimulus legislation and fast-track trade negotiating authority, Healey said.
The American Plastics Council expects state budget-tightening to weaken interest in solid-waste legislation. Still, some states, including Kentucky and California, are expected to look at bottle bills or other solid-waste-oriented legislation, said Roger Bernstein, vice president of state government affairs at the American Chemistry Council in Arlington, Va.
Green building issues and work on legislation encouraging use of plastic pallets will remain a priority for APC, Bernstein said. As of Jan. 1, APC became a unit of the ACC.
The industry also will continue to monitor health policy debates in the state legislatures, but those debates will remain at the ``10,000-foot'' level and are not likely to involve plastics specifically, Bernstein said. However, if states begin to adopt a precautionary approach to chemicals policy, that will affect industry, he noted.
The Composites Fabricators Association will focus most of its federal attention next year on lobbying Congress on air-quality issues. The Arlington-based CFA wants Congress to convince the Environmental Protection Agency to alter the section of its new air-quality regulations that would require composites molders that emit more than 100 tons a year to add incinerators, said Ken Odette, associate director of government affairs.
``They can't afford that,'' he said. ``We're asking that pollution prevention be used in place of incineration.''