Alert: California Solicits Input on Consultation Process for Toxicity of Nickel, PFOS and TCE

A key California regulatory agency, the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), launched a 45-day public comment period and meeting to review the toxicity of five substances under the state’s Proposition 65 list. Among the seven listed of relevance for surface treatment are:

  • Nickel (as Nickel and Nickel Compounds)
  • PFOS
  • TCE

A special scientific committee of experts – the Prop 65 Developmental and Reproductive Toxicant Identification Committee (DARTIC) – will review the chemicals and hear public input on November 9, 2015. Technical comments are due to the agency by October 12, 2015. NASF is working with the Nickel Institute and toxicologists with the Nickel Producers Environmental Research Association (NiPERA) to prepare for the committee’s review.

The panel will make recommendations to OEHHA on prioritizing these substances for further action under state law. In the meantime, it has published online a nearly 500-page review of relevant health literature relevant to its consultation on these and other substances at www.oehha.ca.gov. This is the first step in a longer review and regulatory decision-making process.

Posted in Government Relations, Law & Regulation | Tagged , , , ,

Maine Removes Nickel Metal from List of 49 Worst Chemicals, Keeps Nickel Compounds

The State of Maine formally announced in late August that it was removing metallic nickel from its list of 49 “Chemicals of High Concern.” NASF’s Alliance Partner, the Nickel Institute, had recently submitted scientific comments to Maine noting state officials had erred in listing nickel as well as nickel compounds as the substances most problematic in products.

The State acknowledged that some aspects of its assessment “may have been overly stringent in identifying chemicals of high concern.” While dropping nickel metal from the list, Maine officials noted that nickel compounds, such as soluble nickel compounds used in surface treatment, would be kept on the list.

Posted in Law & Regulation | Tagged , ,

NASF Meets with EPA on Metals Discharge Rule for Surface Treatment, EU Panel Urges Update on Metals Discharge Limits

NASF recently held discussions with EPA Office of Water officials to discuss the agency’s effort to update wastewater limits for surface finishing. The agency is continuing its review of existing requirements governing the industry, and will be making a determination on whether to go forward with a more stringent rule shortly.

Topics of inquiry and review for EPA range wide, and include the status and growth of zero discharge facilities, new process chemistry innovations and wastewater treatment equipment. NASF has been working with its members in some areas across the nation to respond to questions emerging from the agency’s ongoing review, and will be collecting additional information shortly from industry facilities and local wastewater treatment plants on pollutant concerns and industry trends.

In the meantime, as NASF meetings with EPA continue, NASF is in touch with European counterparts on the recent European Union Court of Auditors report from late summer on metals discharges across Europe. The report noted that concentration limits on “heavy metals” in sewage sludge have not been updated in three decades and should be tightened in line with technological improvements in wastewater treatment.

Posted in Government Relations, Law & Regulation | Tagged

Conflict Mineral Disclosure Requirements Ruled Unconstitutional

As part of federal legislation enacted in 2010, certain companies that use conflict minerals (i.e., gold, tin, tantalum and tungsten that originated from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) or adjoining countries) must submit a disclosure report to the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission (SEC). Companies subject to the law must disclose whether their products contain conflict minerals and what steps they are taking to ensure that their products do not contain conflict minerals.

A recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report substantiated claims regarding the difficulty in obtaining information to determine the source of conflict minerals used in products. For example, in the disclosure reports submitted to the SEC in 2014, 94 percent of the companies reported exercising due diligence on the source and chain of custody of conflict minerals used in their products, but two-thirds of them were not able to determine whether the conflict minerals came from DRC or adjoining countries. None of the companies reporting were able to determine if the conflict minerals financed or benefited armed rebel groups in those countries.

The disclosure requirements for conflict minerals have been the subject of several lawsuits challenging their legality, including one filed by the National Association of manufacturers (NAM), the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the Business Roundtable in 2012. On August 18, 2015 a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit struck down a portion of these requirements. The court ruled that compelling disclosure that products are “DRC conflict free” or “not conflict free” violates the First Amendment guarantee against government compelled speech.

Generally, the government can compel speech that is “purely factual and uncontroversial information.” The court stated that whether this law will decrease the revenue of armed groups in the DRC and diminish the humanitarian crisis there is entirely unproven and rests on pure speculation. According to the court, the requirement to label products as “conflict free” or not is hardly factual and non-ideological, but rather it ethically taints products and stigmatizes companies in violation of the First Amendment.

The SEC may appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court or petition for a rehearing before all of the judges of the D.C. Circuit. Based on the fact that the court invalidated the central feature of the conflict minerals disclosure requirements on constitutional grounds, industry groups are cautioning companies not to commit substantial resources to implement the SEC’s rule and asking the SEC and Congress to reexamine the efficacy of these requirements.

If you have any questions or would like additional information regarding the conflict minerals disclosure requirements and these recent developments, please contact Jeff Hannapel with NASF at jhannapel@thepolicygroup.com.

Posted in Law & Regulation | Tagged

Federal Court Blocks Implementation of New “Waters of the U.S.” Rule in Thirteen States

As many in the industry know, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) issued a final rule over the summer that would dramatically expand the federal Clean Water Act’s definition of “waters of the United States.” The agency’s new definition could subject a broad range of routine activities of industrial facilities, commercial establishments, agricultural operations and local governments to the water law’s jurisdiction and triggers the need for federal permits for these activities.

Opposition and Legal Challenges

EPA received over one million comments on the rule, including those from governors and attorneys general from several states that requested EPA to withdraw the rule because it seeks to broaden federal authority over waters illegally. Thirty states, 20 industry and agricultural groups, and environmental groups have filed legal challenges to the final rule.

In addition, several bills have been introduced in Congress to block implementation of the measure. Twenty-nine states also asked EPA in a July 28, 2015 letter to postpone the implementation of the rule for at least nine months pending the outcome of the many lawsuits challenging the regulation.

August 2015 Federal Court Decision

On August 27, 2015 a federal district court in North Dakota granted a motion to block the implementation of the final rule in 13 states ruling that the risk of irreparable harm to States is both imminent and likely. The court also rejected EPA’s argument that the rule would benefit the public by protecting more waters in the U.S. EPA is seeking an appeal of this decision in the U.S. Court of Appeals. Two other federal courts dismissed petitions seeking similar injunctions based on judicial jurisdictional issues and did not address any of the merits of the cases.

EPA has noted that the federal court’s ruling is limited to only 13 states and that the rule remains in effect in the other 37 states. The Agency continues to hold training seminars and develop guidance documents to implement the rule. In addition, EPA intends to post the status of jurisdictional determinations for water features based on the different categories of waters subject to the rule.

Critics and supporters of the rule both contend that the fractured implementation of the final rule will cause even further confusion regarding the jurisdictional determinations for waters of the U.S. in different parts of the country. As a result, it appears that it will be some time until much needed clarification is provided in this matter. In the meantime, surface finishing operations, depending on their geography, should be vigilant in considering which of their activities may trigger federal permit requirements pursuant to this rule.

If you have any questions or would like additional information regarding this rule and these new developments, please contact Jeff Hannapel with NASF at jhannapel@thepolicygroup.com.

Posted in Law & Regulation | Tagged ,

Bright Design Challenge Fall Competition Begins

The Bright Design Challenge, coordinated by the West Coast Chapter of the NASF, began its fall competition September 15th with a tour of K & L Anodizing that included an informative “Plating 101” class conducted by local association leaders Alan Olick of General Bright Plating and Bryan Leiker, of K & L Anodizing.

The competition is divided into two programs and is held in conjunction with the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena in the fall, and the College for Creative Studies in Detroit in the Spring. Both institutions work closely with industry volunteers to insure students receive a solid understanding of the surface finishing industry.

Now in its sixth year, the fall competition will challenge students to create marketable products that incorporate various plating processes. Through the fall, students will receive classroom instruction, attend tours of plating facilities, and even have an opportunity to test their projects at actual plating operations. In December, student projects will be judged and tuition scholarships totaling $15,000 will be awarded to the winning entries.

The National Association for Surface Finishing (NASF) is committed to aggressively promoting the surface treatment industry and its wide reach to young innovators with new ideas. As part of the association’s Surface Technology Initiative, the Bright Design Challenge has several goals, including attracting interest in the industry and growing the the market for surface finishes that impact millions of products and households across the globe.

Posted in Events | Tagged

NASF SUR/FIN 2016 Exhibit Interest Spikes

Finishing industry leaders, pleased with the success of the 2015 NASF SUR/FIN Manufacturing and Technology Tradeshow and Conference, are seeing a high level of enthusiasm and interest for next year’s event. Exhibit space requests for association’s 2016 Tradeshow have already exceeded those generated from this same time last year.

The 2016 event will be held at the South Point Hotel & Convention Center in Las Vegas. This venue played host to SUR/FIN a few years back and based on post-registration reports was popular with over 80% of attendees.

Overall, the performance of the business-to-business exhibition industry remains strong this year, posting a year-on-year gain of 3.8% as of mid-year 2015. This growth is the second highest rate since the second quarter of 2007 and also marked the 20th consecutive quarter of year-on-year growth.

Exhibit registration for the NASF SUR/FIN 2016 Trade Show is now taking place. Visit NASFSURFIN.com for complete registration information or contact Cheryl Clark, Director of Events at 302.436.5616.

Posted in Events | Tagged

35th Annual MFASC Supplier Conference

Supplier Conference

The Metal Finishing Association of Southern California has announced the successful completion of its 35th annual Supplier Conference held at Quiet Cannon in Montebello, California. Additional training sessions were added to this informative program which organizers believe to be a strong factor in the record attendance this year. Sessions included the NASF Boot Camp, Supervisory Skills & Employment Law, and a most enlightening safety training session on CUPA inspections. Also featured was a helpful question and answer program relative to the recent PFOS extension featuring top AQMD officials.

This extensive tabletop exhibition featured 52 leading member companies and concluded with dinner and networking.

Posted in Events, NASF Chapters | Tagged ,

MAMF Contributes to NASF 1000

Robert Chabot, MAMF Treasurer and Joe Tilton, MAMF President present Jeff Hannapel, NASF with the Chapters $5,000 contribution benefiting the NASF 1000.
Robert Chabot, MAMF Treasurer and Joe Tilton, MAMF President present Jeff Hannapel, NASF with the Chapters $5,000 contribution benefiting the NASF 1000.

Leading companies within the surface finishing industry joined the Masters’ Association of Metal Finishers officials on September 9th for an informative dinner meeting. A highlight of the event, held at the River Palm Terrace in Edgewater, New Jersey, featured a special $5,000 presentation by the MAMF to the NASF 1000.

This contribution is a clear indicator of the MAMF’s commitment toward helping fund the technical, economic and legal expertise needed toward battling regulatory and statutory actions that threaten the surface finishing industry.

Posted in NASF Chapters