Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, February 11, 2020


Julie Teel Simmonds, (619) 990-2999,

Bill Would Slow Expansion of U.S. Plastic Production, Study Impacts to Communities, Oceans, Climate

WASHINGTON― U.S. Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.) introduced legislation today that would slow the fossil fuel industry’s aggressive push to increase production of plastic and also require studies about its effects on communities, marine life and climate change.

The Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act of 2020 would pause federal permits for new plastic-making petrochemical projects proposed for the Gulf Coast and Appalachia until their cumulative impacts have been assessed. The bill will also create zero-discharge standards for plastic pellets, stringent standards for the most toxic air and water pollutants, and environmental justice requirements for plastics facilities.

“Plastic pollution is an absolute scourge for our communities and our oceans,” said Julie Teel Simmonds, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “There’s no going back if we allow the fossil fuel industry to dramatically ramp up the conversion of fracked gas into mountains of single-use plastic. While the corporations rake in profits, we’ll be left with contaminated air, polluted water and wildlife struggling to survive in a sea of plastic.”

In addition to pausing new plastic production, the legislation calls for reducing single-use plastic packaging, studying derelict fishing gear and other sources of ocean plastic pollution, improved recycling programs, and expanded producer liability for plastic products and packaging.

Plastic has been accumulating in oceans for decades, with an estimated 8 million tons added every year, and it’s expected to outweigh all the fish in the sea by 2050. It is contaminating drinking water supplies and the food chain. Environmental pollutants adhere to plastic as it travels through the ocean food chain, collects in ocean gyres, or washes up on beaches.

The fossil fuel industry has announced plans to increase North American plastic production by at least 35% by 2025. Some of the biggest projects are ethane cracker and polymerization plants that produce plastic, 40% of which is single-use packaging designed to be immediately discarded.

The Center for Biological Diversity has joined with hundreds of organizations in a legal petition to EPA demanding updates to decades-old federal air- and water-pollution standards for petrochemical plants producing plastics. The Center has also partnered with groups in Louisiana to fight a massive plastic-making complex that Formosa Plastics has proposed for St. James Parish, LA.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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