Reach costs moderate and manageable

Implementing the EU's Reach chemical policy reform will cost only a fraction as much as claimed by industry critics, says a study for the Nordic council of ministers. Nevertheless, the analysis predicts higher direct costs than forecast by the European Commission.

Presenting the results at a European parliament seminar on Wednesday, Swedish environment minister Lena Sommestad urged the EU to refocus attention on Reach’s benefits. “The costs are moderate and manageable,” she insisted.

The new analysis was carried out by Tufts University in the USA. It calculates that Reach’s substance testing requirements will cost chemicals firms around €3.5bn over 11 years. This is over 50% higher than the Commission estimates.

But it said the indirect or downstream costs of Reach – on chemical users – would amount to only one-and-a-half times the direct costs. This contrasts wildly with the latest industry-funded study – by Arthur D. Little for the German industry federation. This, says Tufts, puts indirect costs at 650 times the direct costs.

“This is a ridiculous notion and no plausible [economic] model supports it,” Franck Ackerman of Tufts said. “The costs are small and will affect industry very little…the substantial health and environmental benefits are well worth the modest price,” he added.

Supporting its call for a closer look at the benefits of Reach, Sweden presented a separate study on the expense of cleaning up environmental contamination by PCBs. National chemicals agency head Ethel Forsberg put EU-wide costs at least €15bn over 47 years. “If there is just one substance like PCB [restricted by Reach], it will be worth the effort,” she said.

Danish environment minister Connie Hedegaard presented similar material, as did Finnish officials. All of this adds to the cauldron of Reach impact studies already facing EU decision makers. Government experts will have a first look at the new figures during a Dutch presidency workshop later this month.

The European parliament’s rapporteur on Reach, Guido Sacconi, welcomed the new findings. “The problem of Reach is workability, not the costs,” he told the seminar. The MEP said he would propose amendments in early February, following the same “basic philosophy” as a report he penned last year. He hoped the environment committee would vote on these next June, and the full parliament in September.

Meanwhile the anticipated effect of Reach on small and medium-sized businesses continues to exercise industry. At a separate seminar in Brussels on Wednesday, Maja Zippel of German flavouring and aroma producer Frey and Lau said Reach would “break our necks if it comes as it is…we either [change it] or we are gone,” she said.

Republished with permission of Environment Daily

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