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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: Barrasso to seek top spot on Energy and Natural Resources Committee | Forest Service finalizes rule weakening environmental review of its projects | Biden to enlist Agriculture, Transportation agencies in climate fight Senate advances energy regulator nominees despite uncertainty of floor vote Barrasso to seek top spot on Energy and Natural Resources Committee 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 WaldenHillicon Valley: Leadership changes at top cyber agency raise national security concerns | Snapchat launches in-app video platform 'Spotlight' | Uber, Lyft awarded federal transportation contract Lawmakers urge FCC to assist in effort to rip out, replace suspect network equipment OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Barrasso to seek top spot on Energy and Natural Resources Committee | Forest Service finalizes rule weakening environmental review of its projects | Biden to enlist Agriculture, Transportation agencies in climate fight MORE (R-Ore.) told reporters.

Rep. John ShimkusJohn Mondy ShimkusHere are the 17 GOP women newly elected to the House this year Asbestos ban stalls in Congress amid partisan fight Women rise on K Street — slowly 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