Washington — Congressional Democrats are trying again with legislation requiring much tougher rules on resin pellet discharge from plastics factories, reintroducing legislation that passed the U.S. House of Representatives last year but stalled in the Senate.
Rep. Alan Lowenthal, D-Calif., is bringing back legislation requiring the Environmental Protection Agency to quickly write new rules prohibiting discharge of pellets from manufacturing plants.
Lowenthal, one of the lead authors of the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act, said new rules are needed around pellet leaks from factories because there are no federal rules or "meaningful" state standards to address the problem.
He said the only national program is an industry-led effort, Operation Clean Sweep, which is voluntary.
"For too long, the plastics industry has been allowed to police itself when it comes to ensuring their pellets don't end up in the environment," Lowenthal said in a statement. "The industry has failed abysmally, and with that failure created an environmental problem of crisis levels.
"It is time for the plastics industry to step up and cover the costs of ensuring their products remain in their facilities and do not end up in our environment," he said.
A version of Lowenthal's new bill, which would require EPA to create new regulations within 60 days, passed the House last year as part of a mammoth transportation spending plan.
But it ultimately died in the Senate, where it was supported by the second-ranking member of the Democratic caucus, Majority Whip and Illinois Sen. Richard Durbin, but did not pass the chamber.
Plastics industry groups opposed the legislation last year, saying they wanted Operation Clean Sweep to be the basis of any new EPA rule-making and said they feared EPA rules would be heavy-handed, particularly toward smaller companies.
But supporters of the legislation have pointed to court settlements, like a $50 million judgment against Formosa Plastics in 2019 over resin pollution from a petrochemical complex in Texas, when arguing for stronger rules. That was one of the largest financial settlements of a private Clean Water Act lawsuit in U.S. history.