But Rouda argued that Keller and plastics association President Tony Radoszewski, who also testified at the hearing, were not fully considering the risks surrounding rapidly increasing plastics use in society.
Rouda said plastics clearly have benefits, but he argued that the U.S. plastics recycling rate of 8 percent is too low, as plastics production continues to rise. More plastic was made worldwide in the decade from 2000-10 than the previous 40 years combined, he said.
As well, he raised questions around health, like people inadvertently ingesting a credit card-sized amount of microplastics weekly, or how the air and water pollution from plastics plants contributed to health problems for those who live nearby.
"This is not a left issue, as pointed out in the ranking members comments; this is an American issue," he said.
"To Mr. Radoszewski and ranking member Keller, I do appreciate the observation of how important plastics are in our everyday life as well as combating COVID-19," Rouda said. "But what we're really focused on here is making sure that the production of plastics does not indiscriminately impact certain communities, often communities of color, by literally injuring them and killing them in the production of plastic."
Rouda and other Democrats on the committee sought to link what they said is higher levels of pollution around petrochemical plants with respiratory diseases and health conditions that exacerbate COVID-19.
"The need for today's briefing exists at the nexus of two ongoing public health crises: the coronavirus pandemic and the serious negative health consequences that people in communities across the country are currently facing as a result of our reliance on plastic, especially given this nation's superfluous consumption of single-use plastics," Rouda said.
In other political contexts, Rouda is allied with the industry.
He was one of the lead authors of a bill introduced in October that would seek to open up how local governments select materials for infrastructure projects, the Sustainable Municipal Access to Resilient Technology in Infrastructure Act.
That topic has been a priority for industry groups, and plastics companies see legislation like Rouda's as helping plastic pipe and other building products make inroads against traditional materials like iron and cement.
A news release from Rouda's office announcing that legislation included lengthy quotes from Radoszewski and the heads of the Vinyl Institute and the American Chemistry Council.