Top Republican: 'Forever chemical' bill has 'no prospects' in Senate

Top Republican: 'Forever chemical' bill has 'no prospects' in Senate
© Stefani Reynolds

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoOvernight Energy: Democrats unveil draft climate bill | Plan aims for carbon neutrality by 2050 | GOP senators press IRS on electric vehicle tax credit Republicans signal renewed confidence they'll avoid witness fight Democrats say Trump ceded right to block Bolton when he attacked him MORE (R-Wyo.) told Bloomberg News a House bill addressing so-called "forever chemicals" has “no prospects in the Senate.”

The bill, HR-535, would both force the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to set nationwide drinking water standards for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances often abbreviated PFAS and require the EPA to place such chemicals on its hazardous substance list. This could potentially mean designating any contaminated location as a Superfund site, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday.

The chemicals, which derive their "forever" nickname from their resistance to breaking down in the environment, are frequently used in nonstick consumer goods and have been linked to health problems by the EPA. One study linked PFAS with kidney and thyroid cancer along with high cholesterol and other illnesses.

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Barrasso said he specifically objected to the bill’s Superfund provisions, which he said go “way beyond” a bipartisan PFAS-related bill his Senate committee passed over the summer as an amendment to a defense spending bill.

The bill ultimately became law in December, but by that point language requiring an enforceable PFAS drinking-water standard had been removed due to objections by House Energy & Commerce Committee Chair Frank Pallone (D-N.J.).

Barrasso was not the only Republican to express skepticism about whether the bill could pass the GOP-led Senate Wednesday. 

"We're back now with a partisan bill that stands no chance," Rep. Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenOvernight Energy: Democrats unveil draft climate bill | Plan aims for carbon neutrality by 2050 | GOP senators press IRS on electric vehicle tax credit Democrats' draft climate bill charts path to carbon neutrality by 2050 Hillicon Valley — Presented by Philip Morris International — Wyden asks NSA to investigate White House cybersecurity | Commerce withdraws Huawei rule after Pentagon objects | Warren calls on Brazil to drop Greenwald charges MORE (R-Ore.) told reporters.

Rep. John ShimkusJohn Mondy ShimkusConservative Club for Growth backs Texas House Republican's primary challenger Republicans eye legislation to rival Democrats' sweeping climate plan Overnight Energy: House passes sweeping bill on 'forever chemicals' | Green groups question Pentagon about burning of toxic chemicals | Steyer plan would open US to climate refugees MORE (R-Ill.) also expressed doubts.

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"There's some Republican amendments that have been accepted," said Shimkus. "It's not enough to turn the tide on the vast majority of Republicans."

"The Superfund provision is really problematic and that's really what stopped the Senate in the final negotiation," Shimkus added. 

The White House has also threatened to veto the House bill, saying it would constrain the EPA from keeping up to date on the latest scientific understanding of the chemicals.

The bill passed the House Rules Committee on Tuesday and is expected to come before the full house as early as Thursday.

-- Additional reporting by Rachel Frazin