Cal Dooley hasn't set an agenda or made a list of priorities for what he will do when he replaces Jack Gerard as president and chief executive officer of the American Chemistry Council on Sept. 8.
``When you are faced with a new challenge, the most important thing you can do is spend a lot of time listening and be very judicious about making any grand pronouncements until you have the opportunity to gain insight from the people who have been engaged on the front lines of the industry,'' Dooley said in a telephone interview on July 16, a week after he was tapped to replace Gerard.
But Dooley known as a consensus builder in Congress and as head of the Grocery Manufacturers Association does have a clear sense of the critical issues facing the chemical industry and thoughts on how to manage them.
In fact, that is one of the reasons he made the switch.
``The opportunity is very intriguing to me,'' Dooley said. ``The budget is four times as large [as the annual $30 million budget at GMA], there are significantly more employees and there is a policy agenda that is equally as challenging, if not more so.''
Dooley also knows he must continue to aggressively address the growing challenges facing the industry, including energy supply and cost, chemical regulation and safety.
``As major consumers of energy, efforts to increase and expand the supply of energy will be front-and-center,'' he said.
Leaders in the industry need to be proactive in combating a growing amount of ``misinformation'' about chemicals and products on the Internet, said Dooley, a moderate Democrat from California who becomes the first former legislator to head the Arlington, Va.-based association. They also must find a way to address legitimate concerns raised by legislators, retailers and the public.
``To the extent possible, we need to align the entire industry,'' Dooley said. ``But we also need to work with the environmental community and others so we can develop the broadest-based coalition possible to advance our agenda. We need to build broad-based coalitions that go beyond business associations and other businesses.''
That is similar to the approach Dooley has used in the past, including in his tenure as head of the Food Products Association. He spearheaded that group's merger with GMA.
``Some of the issues facing ACC have some overlap with what we were facing at GMA,'' Dooley said, noting, for example, the questions raised about the safety of bisphenol A, used to make polycarbonate bottles.
``The packaging and chemical attacks that are occurring at the state level will continue to be a challenge,'' he said ``Similar issues with phthalates will remain a high priority at the state level,'' along with the overall regulation of chemicals at the state level and the re-examination of chemical regulations under the 30-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act.
Three states have enacted phthalate bans. In addition, retailers, responding to pressure from the public, have been pulling some products from shelves. For example, CVS Corp., Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Toys ``R'' Us have announced they plan to stop selling PC baby bottles.
``We need to ensure that we maintain a science-based approach to the regulation of chemicals and products,'' Dooley said, especially given retailers' reactions and some regulatory moves by the European Union.
``We need to be increasing our participation in some of the blogs and sites being accessed by the general public to gain information on chemicals and products. That information is not science- and fact-based and it is distorting the risk of products and chemicals. We need to engage with independent third parties to combat information that we think is flawed and inconsistent,'' he said.
Dooley said he would monitor and track those blogs and sites, as GMA did, to make sure the industry combats the attacks in a timely fashion.
Dooley believes his background as a congressman will come in handy, but downplays its importance.
``It allows me to have a relationship and credibility with a lot of policymakers and to effectively make the case for the industry's policies,'' he said. ``But the most effective advocates are those that have the intellectual and personal credibility with policymakers.''
That is why he said it is critical that the industry show people the contributions its products make to the environment and quality of life.
A former U.S. congressman from California, Dooley helped found the New Democrat Coalition in 1997, a group of moderate, pro-business legislators. Dooley is a pro-trade advocate and in 2005 was appointed to the President's Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations.