Republicans say Democrats’ big climate bill would crush the plastics industry

Republican lawmakers are raising concerns that provisions in the sweeping climate bill from top House Democrats would stifle the plastics industry.

One late addition to the nearly 1,000-page piece of legislation, known as the CLEAN Future Act, is meant to curb greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution emitted from the petrochemical facilities that produce plastics or the raw materials used to make plastics.

Most significantly, the bill would impose a temporary pause on air pollution permits needed for approval of new plastics production facilities.

The legislation also directs the Environmental Protection Agency to issue new greenhouse gas and air pollution controls for these facilities within three years, including requiring plastics production plants to use zero-emissions power and improve emissions monitoring.

The EPA regulations must also require any permit for a plastics production facility to be accompanied by an “environmental justice assessment,” which would include consulting with the people who live in the region where the facility would be located, according to the bill.

Several Republicans, during a legislative hearing on the bill Thursday, argued it would dampen the plastics industry at a time when the pandemic exposed a need for more plastic materials for personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves.

Rep. David McKinley, a West Virginia Republican, asked whether the Democrats’ bill would preclude the opening of new facilities such as an under-construction ethane cracker plant being built by Shell near Pittsburgh or a similar plant planned for eastern Ohio.

“Yes, I believe that language would jeopardize future investment into those types of facilities,” said Kevin Sunday, director of government affairs for the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, in response to McKinley’s question.