NASF, the Nickel Institute and the Specialty Steel Industry of North America recently queried Maine officials on potential concerns for industry over the state's selection of "Nickel and Nickel Compounds" as part of its listing of the top 49 "chemicals of high concern" under that state's recently enacted law.
The inclusion of nickel and nickel compounds on the Maine list does not trigger any regulatory requirements for now, but it serves as a warning that the state could designate the metal or its compound to be a "priority chemical" in the future. The Maine law requires its state environmental agency - the Department of Environmental Protection - to review its "chemicals of high concern" list at least every three years. The law also gives the agency the authority to designate any chemical on that list as a priority chemical.
The new law was enacted this past summer, and provides the state with wide authority. Relevant for the coatings industry is that the framework is viewed as a potential model for other states considering passing their own law to regulate chemicals and metals.
"We've been seeing more state actions like this, and we can expect this trend to build steam in the years ahead - the European REACH chemicals law laid the groundwork for what is now a new game for chemicals and metals in the U.S.," NASF's Jeff Hannapel noted to the NASF's Government Advisory Committee, which met recently in Chicago to discuss nickel, chromium and other chemicals policy matters.
Will Maine's law be coming to a state near you? With the federal debate over chemicals reform stalled in Congress, over half the states have already moved on their own to restrict various substances determined to be health hazards. Four states - California, Maine, Minnesota and Washington - have spearheaded a broader approach to management chemicals and metals hazards, and thirty states have enacted some form of chemicals management laws or regulations.