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: House stimulus aims to stem airline pollution | Environmental measures become sticking point in Senate talks | Progressives propose T 'green stimulus' GOP blames environmental efforts, but Democrats see public health problems with stimulus Rand Paul's coronavirus diagnosis sends shockwaves through Senate 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

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 WaldenGOP lawmaker: US will see improvement on virus 'in a couple of weeks' Pelosi not invited by Trump to White House coronavirus relief bill's signing CARES Act delivers on our health care needs in a big way MORE (R-Ore.) told reporters.

Rep. John ShimkusJohn Mondy ShimkusPelosi not invited by Trump to White House coronavirus relief bill's signing Blagojevich calls himself a 'Trumpocrat,' praises Trump after release from prison Sanders slams Trump pardons as part of 'broken and racist criminal justice system' MORE (R-Ill.) also expressed doubts.

"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."

ADVERTISEMENT

"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