TRENTON, N.J. — In an incredible show of solidarity, more than 120 members of the industry convened in New Jersey on Friday to deliver testimony against a proposal from the state's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to ban perchloroethylene use in drycleaning completely by 2021.
"I thought that it went very well — almost as well as it could have," says David Cotter, executive director of the Textile Care Allied Trades Association (TCATA). "It was the kind of meeting the industry always hopes for. Whether or not the DEP will change its mind remains to be seen."
The standing-room-only crowd included many Korean operators, who wore "Don't Take My Business Away" T-shirts. More than 50 people offered five-minute statements, with drycleaners concentrating on the economic hardships the new regulations would bring.
Under the proposal, perc operators would have until Jan. 1, 2010 to install fourth-generation, nonvented units to limit airborne emissions, or retrofit current equipment with vapor barriers. "Colocated" perc plants would be banned completely on June 27, 2009, and on Jan. 1, 2021, all perc use would be eliminated.
Association executives concentrated on the research available on perc toxicity. "The proposed regulations are not based on true science; they are reacting to the problems of 30 and 40 years ago," Cotter says. "If you were to use their logic, they should also ban gasoline and diesel fuel." States such as Oregon and New York have already decided that perc is "regulated sufficiently," he adds.
Additional speakers included Nora Nealis, of the National Cleaners Association (NCA); Bill Fisher and Mary Scalco, of the Drycleaning & Laundry Institute (DLI) ; Peter Blake, of the North East Fabricare Association (NEFA); Steve Risotto, of the Halogenated Solvents Industry Alliance (HSIA); Mr. Baek, of the Korean Drycleaners Association (KDA) of New Jersey; and Mike Tatch, environmental consultant and operator of New Jersey-based Tatch Technical Services.
Limited to five minutes each, statements began at 10:00 a.m. and ran continuously until 3:30 p.m., with only a half-hour break for lunch. NCA alone delivered two busloads of cleaners to testify, and the large and enthusiastic turnout made attendees optimistic that DEP could amend its proposal. “I think at the very least they will extend the timeline,” DLI executive vice president Scalco says.
"The industry's testimony was well-coordinated, and rebuked DEP's reasoning from every angle — the science, the economic impact, the advances in drycleaning technology [and] even New Jersey's own data," says Bill Fisher, DLI CEO. "Unfortunately, this may not be about what's right or wrong, or what is common sense, but more about politics."
The common thread was that "We can be regulated," NCA executive director Nealis says. "Perc can be contained. The risk can be managed. There is no reason to phase it out, and we're going to push back. We're not going to let them take it away from us — not without a fight."
Written comments can be submitted to the New Jersey DEP through Feb. 15, 2008. Mail them to Alice Previte, N.J. DEP, Attn. DEP Docket No. 27-07-11/582, Office of Legal Affairs, P.O. Box 402, Trenton, NJ 08625. To read the proposal, click here.