Ocean Plastics Bill Sails Through Senate Committee

Plastic pollution bill approved in committee, despite objections from Udall

A bill that would combat plastic pollution in the ocean won approval in another Senate committee despite objections from one of the chamber’s most active environmentalists.

The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee approved S. 1982, also known as the Save Our Seas 2.0 Act, on a voice vote at a Nov. 13 markup. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), would create a federal marine debris foundation, establish a “genius prize” to encourage the development of solutions to the plastic pollution problem, and launch a number of federal studies into this problem.

The bill moved forward despite a “no” vote from Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), who said it “does little to attack this problem.”

Bottle Deposit

Udall wants to add a provision that would create a 10-cent deposit program for plastic bottles that would be funded by the makers of those bottles. He said, despite the widespread adoption of recycling programs over the years, billions of tons of plastic are still winding up in landfills or in oceans every year.

The first iteration of the Save Our Seas Act cleared Congress without objections from any lawmakers in either chamber. Udall said this type of unanimity still may be possible for that bill’s sequel, but it must be significantly beefed up to ensure that plastic makers do more to fix this problem.

“We’re paying massive, massive amounts of money—taxpayers are—and we’re not getting the recycling done,” Udall told Bloomberg Environment. “Recycling is broken.”

A different version of this bill (S. 2260) already won approval in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and a third version (S. 2372) was approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The backers of these three bills plan to combine them into one version on the Senate floor.

Other Bills

The Commerce committee also approved bills by voice vote at its markup that would:

  • Create a federal “sustainable chemistry” interagency task force (S. 999);
  • Require the Commerce Department to study how firefighters are affected by wearing protective gear that’s been coated with PFAS chemicals (S. 2525); and
  • Boost a program that provides assistance to fishermen who are affected by natural disasters (S. 2346).

A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said no timing has been established for when these bills would be brought to the floor.

By:  David Schultz
Source: Bloomberg