Bloomberg Law
March 24, 2020, 1:25 PM

Groups Trying to Unify What States Deem ‘Essential Industries’

Pat Rizzuto
Pat Rizzuto

Three trade groups for chemical makers are lobbying states to broadly define “essential industries” that must stay open during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA), Household & Commercial Products Association (HCPA), and American Chemistry Council want all states to follow the Department of Homeland Security’s guidance.

The DHS says all chemical producers and the supply chain that supports them, including packaging companies, personal protective equipment manufacturers, and transportation companies, are essential businesses.

Many, but not all, states follow Homeland Security’s definition. States that don’t can create headaches for chemical manufacturers that are trying to produce high-demand cleaning products and disinfectants in multiple states.

SOCMA and HCPA say they’re contacting governors and other top state officials to explain the broad definition needed to get coronavirus-fighting chemicals to homes, hospitals, and other customers, representatives from both groups said.

“It will require getting on the phone and explaining why that’s the case,” said Owen Caine, who manages government relations and public policy for the HCPA.

The American Chemistry Council “expects states and local governments will use the department’s guidance as they decide which businesses should stay open while all parties try to contain Covid-19,” said Bill Erny, the council’s senior director of regulatory and technical affairs.

Hurting the Supply Chain

As of Tuesday morning, at least 15 states—California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Washington, and West Virginia—had issued stay-at-home orders or similar orders exempting essential businesses.

A Bloomberg Environment analysis of state essential businesses lists showed some states, such as California, Indiana, Ohio, and West Virginia clearly defined the term to include any industry listed in the DHS guidance.

Washington state, Massachusetts, and Maryland used very broad definitions of the chemical and other industries and made clear that additional industries could be added.

Pennsylvania, which hadn’t issued a stay-at-home order as of Monday, released a list of specific essential businesses that Robert F. Helminiak, an attorney and vice president at SOCMA, said could hurt the supply chain.

The list excluded companies making paint, coatings, and adhesives, yet they make the pigments and coatings used on labels and the adhesives that attach labels to pharmaceuticals, disinfectants, and other products.

SOCMA will tap into its members and state chemical associations to ask them to contact local officials to help them understand the domino effect that closing one business or service can have in the complex chemical supply chain, Helminiak said.

Closing one type of business has the potential to block critically needed supplies getting to markets, said John Nothdurft, director of government affairs for ISSA-The Worldwide Cleaning Industry Association.

Pennsylvania, for example, briefly shut down its highway rest stops last week only to reopen them after truckers and the White House explained truckers need those facilities to rest during long-haul trips, he said, referencing widely reported news accounts.

“We respectfully request that as you contemplate any shelter in place orders that you specifically deem the production and transport of cleaning products and commercial cleaning and janitorial services as essential operations that should continue during any mass closures,” ISSA asked all 50 governors March 20.

To contact the reporter on this story: Pat Rizzuto in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Gregory Henderson at; Rebecca Baker at; Renee Schoof at