With Congress in recess until after the November elections, the window of opportunity is shrinking for legislators to enact two issues important to the plastics industry: funding for a 6-year-old program that speeds up the approval of new food-packaging applications, and legislation to permit drilling for natural gas on the Outer Continental Shelf.
During the summer, both the House and Senate - for the first time in 25 years - passed bills that would allow offshore drilling for natural gas on the OCS. There is concern that momentum for that legislation may be slipping away.
Despite assertions from leaders in both the Senate and the House that a bill will emerge and their pledges to make renewed efforts at a compromise when Congress returns Nov. 13, no conference meeting has been set.
In addition, declining gasoline prices, a drop in oil prices to less than $60 a barrel and sharply declining natural gas prices may temper the willingness of Congress to tackle such a controversial issue.
Natural gas prices have declined for six consecutive weeks and prices are 35 percent lower than two months ago. Inventories are near record highs.
``Every day that goes by without a law ... increases the risks'' to the economy and the nation's energy supply, said Jack Gerard, president and chief executive officer of the American Chemistry Council in Arlington, Va.
There is more confidence surrounding funding for the food-contact program, as both the House and Senate have restored the program and included it in their agricultural appropriations bills for fiscal 2007. But the Senate has yet to vote on its bill.
Under the program, food-packaging materials are approved within 120 days unless the Food & Drug Administration objects. If the program were eliminated, the agency would revert to pre-2000 approval procedures, which typically took two to five years.