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1991/92 legislative wrap-up: environmental bills, tariffs take center stage.

1991/92 Legislative Wrap-Up: Environmental Bills, Tariffs Take Center Stage

the end of the year brings a number of issues important to the nonwovens industry to the forefront on Capitol Hill; RCRA reauthorization and green advertising legislation are two focuses

As the first session of the 102nd Congress comes to a close, a number of bills are on the legislative agenda that are of interest to the nonwovens industry. This article summarizes the measures that are of particular concern to the nonwovens industry and details INDA's actions on each.

This summary is not intended to be an exhaustive listing of all the issues being addressed on Capitol Hill, nor does it detail the regulatory issues that are also of interest to the nonwovens industry. In fact, the industry's and INDA's regulatory agenda is so broad that it will be detailed separately in the January, 1992 issue of nonwovens industry.

1992 RCRA Reauthorization Likely

One of the most important legislative issues on the horizon is the anticipated reauthorization of the Federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), the comprehensive law covering federal solid waste management policy. INDA is concerned that RCRA Reauthorization could become a vehicle for a number of provisions that would dramatically restrict solid waste.

As noted in the July issue of nonwovens industry, a RCRA bill has already been introduced in the Senate by Senator Max Baucus of Montana; at press time a House version is expected in the near future by Rep. Al Swift of Washington. INDA has reviewed the Baucus bill and a draft version of the Swift bill and is not overly concerned at this time about most of the provisions in either proposal.

As introduced, the Baucus bill does have some provisions that could lead to landfill closures, which INDA does not favor. But over all, we have not identified provisions in either bill that would have a significant impact on the nonwovens industry.

As the bill goes through the legislative process, however, there is concern that it could be amended to include provisions that would restrict interstate transportation of solid waste and thereby greatly increase disposal costs, require minimum recycled content in consumer goods and/or discourage use of disposable diapers and other disposable consumer items through special taxes and/or direct legislative restrictions. All of these are possible amendments, since legislation calling for each has already been introduced in Congress and it is common practice to amend one piece of legislation to another during a number of the stages a bill goes through as part of the legislative process.

Our concerns have been expressed to Senator Baucus' office and we are working to ensure that Congressman Swift is aware of the nonwoven industry's concerns as well. INDA's Government Relations Advisory Board and Environmental Committee have also expressed interest in the issue and will actively represent the nonwovens industry's interests once legislative action gets underway in either the House or the Senate.

Other Environmental Bills

In other environmental issues, Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey has introduced a bill that would require that the EPA develop national "green" advertising guidelines for manufacturers who wish to make claims about the environmental attributes of their products. INDA formally supports the need for national guidelines on green advertising, but believes that the FTC is the proper agency to develop them. Green advertising claims are primarily being addressed in the regulatory agencies at present; an industry position on green advertising claims will be more fully detailed in the January, 1992 issue of nonwovens industry.

With Senator Lautenberg's bill, there is also concern that the legislation would establish a regulatory system for approving environmental claims that would be slow to recognize technology advances in solid waste management--what might not be viewed as photodegradable in 1992 may be so in 1993, for instance, but regulations might not allow a manufacturer to make a claim of photodegradability until 1994 or later.

INDA's Government Relations Advisory Board members have met with Senator Lautenberg's staff and INDA representatives continue to make the industry's concerns known to the senator. We are also hopeful that the FTC will develop guidelines in the near future that will make this bill unnecessary.

Finally in terms of environmental legislation, a bill has been passed by the Senate and is pending in the House that would extend the Medical Waste Tracking Act (MWTA) of 1988 for another two years so that it would expire in 1993 instead of 1991. The Medical Waste Tracking Act has set up a demonstration program in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Puerto Rico that is designed to ensure that medical wastes produced in those states are properly delivered to disposal facilities with as little exposure as possible to waste management workers and the general public.

Since the MWTA was first enacted, more than 70% of the medical waste handled in these states has been labeled as "infectious," even though a hospital's waste stream typically includes only 5-10% infectious waste. The act has also resulted in dramatic rises in disposal costs in the states that are participating in the demonstration program (in one case cited by the Health Industry Manufacturers Association, disposal costs have gone from about $9000 a month in 1988 to more than $50,000 a month in 1991).

INDA generally does not favor any legislation that increases disposal costs of products manufactured by its members and has drafted a formal position on the MWTA that is currently under review by the association's membership.

Other Legislative Issues

In other areas of interest to the nonwovens industry, an anti-trust bill that is opposed by INDA has now been passed in different versions by both the House and the Senate and, as of press time, a compromise between the two versions was being pursued by a Congressional "conference committee." This bill would basically overturn several recent Supreme Court decisions and allow distributors who have been dismissed by manufacturers to more easily sue for damages.

INDA opposes this bill because it could lead to unnecessary and costly litigation against its members. Even though the measure has been passed by both houses of Congress, President Bush has the power to veto it if it is sent to the White House. INDA will encourage the President to honor his commitment if a compromise is reached by the conference committee and the compromise version is approved by Congress.

In another area of major interest, legislation is pending that would continue the 5.6% duty for all disposable surgical drapes and gowns imported by INDA members for sale in the U.S. As detailed in the December, 1990 issue of nonwovens industry, we favor a duty of no more than 5.6% for all disposable surgical drapes and gowns, whether they are made from natural or synthetic fibers.

Due to a quirk in the Harmonized Tariff Schedule, legislation has been necessary to ensure a 5.6% duty for spunlaced and bonded-fiber fabric disposable drapes and gowns manufactured from manmade fibers. This legislation has been granted by Congress on a "temporary" basis for about the past 10 years, but must be renewed periodically. In fact, unless it is renewed again, it will expire at the end of 1992.

As the bill to renew the extension has come under consideration this year, representatives of the reusable surgical drapes and gowns industry have been lobbying to end this "temporary" provision--a move that would result in an 18% duty for disposable drapes and gowns classified under this category. Furthermore, if these lobbying efforts are successful, there is concern that these same representatives will attack the 5.6% duty on all disposable drapes and gowns, making almost all imported disposable surgical drapes and gowns subject to a duty of 18% or more.

INDA will counter these efforts by the reusables industry with a lobbying effort of its own, the elements of which will include a strong response to claims that reusable surgical drapes and gowns are more beneficial than disposables; INDA's historical support of a 5.6% duty for all disposable surgical drapes and gowns; and nearly unanimous industry support for continuation of the legislation.

Next Month: Regulatory Issues

In the January, 1992 issue of nonwovens industry I will detail INDA's regulatory agenda, which includes, among other things, more on "green" advertising, protective garment standards from both the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the EPA, a scientific reassessment of dioxin and possible changes to the Harmonized Tariff Schedule.

Peter Mayberry is the director of government affairs for INDA, Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry. He works out of the Washington, DC offices of Keller & Heckman, INDA's legal counsel. This Capital Comments column appears monthly in nonwovens industry.
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Title Annotation:Capital Comments
Author:Mayberry, Peter
Publication:Nonwovens Industry
Date:Dec 1, 1991
Previous Article:Nonwovens fiber shipments on the rebound.
Next Article:Reflections 1991: the year that was.

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