No one expects a comprehensive energy policy, an environmental policy bill or a comprehensive reform of the nation's chemical management system—the Toxic Substances Control Act—to emerge from Congress in 2013. Nor do they expect completion of any new free trade agreements.

"Even though there was a paucity of legislation in 2011 and 2012, we will not have a plethora of bills coming through Congress in the next two years," says Walter Moore, vice president of federal affairs for the American Chemistry Council.

But manufacturers do anticipate some progress on each of those fronts, and are watching with great interest and concern as to what will happen with both fracking and the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline, which would allow crude oil from Canadian sands to be shipped to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast.

"The President has to make a key decision on the Keystone pipeline in early 2013 and the Bureau of Land Management will be issuing its rules on access to public lands for oil and natural gas fracking," says Mike Wall, vice president of regulatory and technical affairs for the American Chemistry Council. "Those decisions will be a strong indicator of how the Administration views the development of energy."

For the chemical industry and the many manufacturers that use chemicals in their products or manufacturing processes, reform of TSCA remains a top priority.

"After years of sweeping reform attempts that has led to more dead ends than breakthroughs, there is a need to consider an alternative to this flawed approach," says Bill Allmond, vice president of government and public relations for the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates.

"Rather than waiting for a silver bullet to fix everything, let's find areas that both sides can agree on and move those issues forward first.

"Our top legislative priority is a bipartisan TSCA reform bill," agrees Wall of ACC.  "We believe we can get a working bipartisan, sensible bill sometime in 2013-2014" that has a decision-making process for assessing safety risks that is "not impossible" to meet, and provisions to protect intellectual property and promote innovation.

It's not a legislative issue, but manufacturers are also hopeful that the White House moves forward on plans for a Trans-Pacific Partnership with nine other countries, and that the U.S. and the European Union agree to begin negotiations on a free trade agreement.

"We're hoping that the Trans-Pacific Partnership may actually come to fruition and help manufacturers develop markets in those Pacific Rim countries," says Allmond.  "We are also hoping that the U.S. makes a commitment to pursuing a free trade agreement with the European Union. Both economies are hurting and that would open up markets to companies in both countries."

AnnMarie Treglia, regional manager of government affairs and the environment for Dart Corp. agrees.

"An FTA with the EU would be a great move for the U.S. It would open up new markets and benefit the manufacturing community."