Huffman, Booker, Merkley, Lowenthal Introduce Legislation to Address Plastic Production Crisis

December 01, 2022

Washington, D.C. –  Today, U.S. Representative Jared Huffman (D-CA-2nd) and Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) along with Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act champions Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Representative Alan Lowenthal (D-CA-47th) introduced the Protecting Communities from Plastics Act, legislation that addresses the plastic production crisis that is fueling climate change and worsening environmental injustice.

“Plastic pollution isn’t just a problem for our oceans and climate – it's a massive environmental injustice, directly impacting frontline and fenceline communities throughout the plastics lifecycle,” said Rep. Huffman. “My bill will protect the health of our communities, reduce greenhouse gas emissions fueling the climate crisis, and stop the fossil fuel industry's petro-dictatorship as it eyes plastics as a safety net. The clock is ticking, and we will keep working on this next Congress – but we are sending a message here and now to put oil and gas companies on notice. Our communities must come first.”

“As we transition to clean and renewable energy, fossil-based plastic production threatens to derail our efforts to address the climate crisis,” said Sen. Booker. “In fenceline communities that are near plastic production plants, residents suffer from the release of harmful pollutants and increased rates of debilitating health conditions such as cancer and heart disease. To address these environmental injustices, I am proud to introduce this legislation that will create nationwide targets for plastic source reduction and put a pause on the permitting of new and expanded plastic facilities while the EPA updates regulations for plastic facilities.”

With plastic production and consumption on track to double in the next decade, greenhouse gas emissions are set to rise, threatening to put our climate goals further out of reach. Petrochemical, plastic production, and waste incineration facilities, which are disproportionately located in, or near, and low-wealth communities, release harmful air and water pollution that cause increased incidences of asthma, cancers, endocrine disruption, development disorders, and heart disease. Transitioning off fossil fuels only to replace that demand with more fossil-based plastic production is not a sustainable solution and will continue to perpetuate existing climate and environmental justice harms.

The Protecting Communities from Plastics Act would directly tackle the plastic pollution crisis by cracking down on the plastic production process, addressing the harmful environmental justice impacts of this growing sector, and moving our economy away from an overreliance on single-use plastic. It establishes stricter rules for petrochemical plants to safeguard the health of American communities and reduce greenhouse gas emissions fueling the climate crisis. This bill also takes steps to begin shifting the U.S. economy away from an unnecessary dependence on certain single-use plastics, creating new nationwide targets for plastic source reduction and reuse in the packaging and food service sectors. These are paired with federal incentives to spur expansion of reusable and refillable systems, with a particular focus on ensuring that the environmental justice communities, as well as studies into the detrimental health effects of microplastics.

“Many of us know and live by the three R’s—reduce, reuse, and recycle—in the hope that as long as we put our plastic items into blue bins, we’ll protect our environment and our communities,” said Merkley, who serves as the Chair of the Environment and Public Works subcommittee overseeing environmental justice and chemical safety. “Unfortunately, when it comes to plastics, the three B’s are much more common—plastic is buried, burned, or borne out to sea—which means dangerous chemicals are seeping into our air, water, and soil, threatening Americans’ health everywhere, and disproportionately in communities of color and low-income communities. With plastic particles ending up on the snowcaps of the arctic and inside our own blood streams, it’s clear we need strong legislation to get this plastics crisis under control. I look forward to working with colleagues in both chambers to get these solutions into place and protect the health of all Americans.”

“As a society, we have become addicted to harmful fossil fuels, and our plastics crisis is another ever-present reminder,” said Congressman Lowenthal. “The evidence is clear: the plastic waste crisis is not simply a solid waste issue, but is intimately tied to climate change, environmental justice, and international human rights – as the production and pollution of plastics harm public health, the environment, and our climate. Simply shifting our dependence from one application of fossil fuel to another is not the answer. Continuing to overburden vulnerable frontline communities is not a solution.”

Rep. Huffman has been a leader in Congress in working to advance legislation to address the impacts of plastics pollution on our communities, oceans, and climate, and has recently led letters to the Biden administration to urge greater protections and rules to hold this polluting industry accountable. In July 2022 Rep. Huffman co-led a letter with both Rep. Alan Lowenthal and Sen. Cory Booker to the EPA calling on the agency to fully consider climate and environmental justice impacts of chemical recycling, or “advanced recycling” technologies in their rulemaking on those processes.

Text of the bill can be found here. To see a list of over 30 endorsing organizations and what supporters are saying, click here.

The bill is cosponsored by Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Representatives Nanette Barragán (CA-44), Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01), Sean Casten (IL-06), Gerald E. Connolly (VA-11), Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ-03), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Mike Levin (CA-49), Ted Lieu (CA-33), Jimmy Panetta (CA-20), Chellie Pingree (ME-01), Mike Quigley (IL-05), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), Rashida Tlaib (MI-13), and Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12).