They say Obama is a cold fish: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/06/21/AR2010062103698.html?wpisrc=nl_pmopinions. He lets Lisa Jackson do all the emoting and threatening. They both operate by giving unilateral orders and treat both the oil and chemical industry as The Enemy, while talking about cooperation (see previous post on Jackson). I don’t know much about the oil industry, but I do know about the chemical industry.
I think the chemical industry is acting too timid (perhaps rightly afraid) in the face of the Gulf oil spill. A little more emoting by the chemical industry would be nice. The chemical industry was hit between the eyes with Bhopal and woke up to its responsibilities fast because it did (and does) care – and came up with a program called Responsible Care® and many similar ones shepherded by different trade associations. The industry shaped up and started doing worst case planning, redesigning processes and products, and beefing up emergency response readiness. While they griped about EPCRA and moan about Chemical Security legislation, the industry has made tremendous strides and works with federal, state and local authorities to prevent and immediately deal with pretty rare disasters. Yeah, there are some laggards, but there is continuous improvement. The granddaddy trade association, American Chemistry Council (ACC), requires 3rd party verification of its tough set of Responsible Care standards and has even booted members out for failure to show progress.
Why isn’t the chemical industry being louder about its disdain over the apparent laxness and corner cutting that seems to have been the case with BP? All the facts and analysis aren’t in, so maybe BP acted appropriately, but there should be vigorous declarations of what the right behavior is. What puzzles me is why didn’t every oil company jump in and ask how they could help and then do it?
And there also has to be more behind the Nalco dispersant issue. Nalco is one of the really good guys on product stewardship. Let’s hear what happened in making the decision to use it. Maybe it will turn out to have been a bad decision, but I can’t believe it was done without Nalco and others carefully considering EHS impacts and trade-offs. You’d think it was a totally ad hoc move by what the media says.
Time for righteous indignation from the much-maligned chemical industry!
Disclosure: I was a representative to ACC (when it was called CMA) for 24 years representing 3M and consult for them now on product stewardship issues. I work with fellow environmental, health and safety professionals from the chemical industry whose goals have always been to make sure their products are safe. We help each other to learn and teach best practices and work with EPA to devise practical regulations that make sense. Yes, individual companies may have differing interpretations of data and move at different speeds in making changes, but product stewardship is a foundational value we all share.