Washington — The American Chemistry Council is launching a campaign accusing President Joe Biden's administration of "troubling" regulatory overreach around chemicals and plastics that it says will drive up costs and hurt U.S. global competitiveness.
ACC CEO Chris Jahn and other senior leaders kicked off a "Chemistry Creates, America Competes" campaign at a Sept. 20 Washington press conference, saying it will include traditional lobbying, advertising, press events and grass roots activity.
Jahn, speaking in front of a row of chemical industry employees who served as a visual back drop, declined to say how much ACC will spend or give many details on how the campaign would expand beyond what the group is already doing in government relations.
But he said it would be vigorous and that "we'll do what we need to do to be successful."
"At the heart of the issue is a massive surge in new, unduly restrictive regulations and a lack of coordination within the Biden administration that's hindering the chemical industry's ability to innovate, grow and create products," Jahn said. "It's air, it's water, climate, plastics and more. This jeopardizes our national priorities, our economy and America's ability to compete with countries like China.
"Some of these regulations would unnecessarily ban chemistries or regulate them at such low levels that manufacturing them becomes virtually impossible," he said.
Specifically, ACC wants Congress to step in with oversight hearings and consider legislation, and it's calling on the Biden administration to let its Office of Management and Budget more vigorously evaluate the economic impact of rulemaking and to appoint someone, preferably in a White House role, to evaluate the supply chain impacts of proposed regulations.
Ross Eisenberg, president of ACC’s America’s Plastic Makers, told the press conference that clearer rules are needed around advanced recycling of plastics.
He pointed to the Environmental Protection Agency's draft plastics pollution strategy released this year, a General Services Administration early-stage proposal asking if government agencies should steer clear of buying single-use plastics, and other proposed rules.
"Whether it's the plastics pollution strategy or the GSA rules or some of these other plastics-targeted rules out there, they're all getting to the same thing, which is not necessarily creating a policy framework that will allow advanced recycling to grow and actually thrive," Eisenberg said. "Frankly, there are a significant number of hard-to-recycle plastics that you're just not going to be able to deal with without advanced recycling."
Eisenberg said about 20 percent of the 13 specific rulemakings ACC highlighted, with an economic cost of $7 billion a year, impact the plastics industry.
Jahn compared the EPA's plastics pollution strategy and the just-released first draft of the global plastics pollution strategy, saying they're both too restrictive.
"In the EPA's plastics pollution strategy, much like in the international zero draft that we're dealing with at the global level, there's too much hindering the industry, regulating the industry, capping production vs. creating a more circular economy," Jahn said.
ACC has, in response to other regulatory proposals, said EPA was risking putting too many limits on chemical recycling.
The press conference at times included sharp rhetoric. Jahn called an $85 million effort started last year by Michael Bloomberg, the Beyond Petrochemicals campaign, "anti-American."
"It's not just the Biden administration and a weak manufacturing economy that is challenging our industry," Jahn said. "Launched last year and funded by out-of-touch billionaires, the Beyond Petrochemicals campaign attacks chemical manufacturing with misinformation about our vital industry.
"The Beyond Petrochemicals campaign is anti-American and it's a losing bet against American jobs and innovation," Jahn said, arguing that the petrochemicals industry is providing solutions to climate change, noting plastics being used in wind turbines, solar panels and to lightweight automobiles.