From: Associated Press
Published November 14, 2005 12:00 AM

EU Governments Delay Vote on Chemicals Legislation

BRUSSELS, Belgium — European Union governments will delay a vote on a contentious new plan to overhaul the bloc's chemicals policy, officials said Friday.

EU officials said the governments' voting, planned for Nov. 28-29, would be put off until a later date, after Germany requested more time in order to concentrate on its own ongoing negotiations to form a new government coalition.

The legislation faces its first legislative review at the European Parliament next week. More than 1,000 amendments had been filed before that review. The bill, along with any changes, is then to be forwarded to EU governments for consideration.

The legislation, known as REACH -- for registration, evaluation and authorization of chemicals -- puts the burden of proof on businesses to show that the thousands of commonly used industrial chemicals and substances they put on the market are safe. It would force companies to list chemicals on a new EU register of chemicals, including those made outside of the EU.

This week, the two largest political groups in the EU assembly agreed to a joint position on overhauling the EU's chemical regulations. REACH calls for the registration of some 30,000 chemical products.

The agreement boosted expectations for a final deal between EU governments and the EU assembly by the end of the year, after years of heavy lobbying from environmental groups on one side and chemical companies on the other.

With the companies arguing that the legislation could cost the industry billions of euros (dollars), the EU assembly signaled a willingness to ease data requirements on companies and to cut administrative red tape.

Environmental groups have argued that such changes would water down the strict requirements needed, and lead to only 12,000 of the original 30,000 substances being tested, leaving consumers at risk.

The Parliament has been divided over the bill. Its environment committee earlier this month voted to toughen the proposal by effectively outlawing the most harmful chemicals, bringing forward the testing of more pernicious substances and clamping down on animal testing.

Source: Associated Press

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