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Bills banning use of PFAS approved by House environment committee

While some lawmakers would like to prohibit the use of dangerous, long-lasting chemicals known as PFAS across the board, the House Environment and Natural Resources Finance and Policy Committee took the first step in outlawing the use of the chemicals common in cosmetics, cookware and ski wax.

Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances have been linked to a range of adverse health effects, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency. The man-made chemicals have been found in groundwater and surface water in Minnesota, according to the Department of Health.

Rep. Ami Wazlawik (DFL-White Bear Township) sponsors three bills to ban the manufacturing, distribution and sale of products in cosmetics, cookware and ski wax that contain PFAS, beginning Jan. 1, 2024. All were approved Thursday and referred to the House Commerce Finance and Policy Committee.

HF2906 was approved 13-3. HF2907 and HF2952 were approved 12-4. There are no companion bills in the Senate.

House Environment and Natural Resources Finance and Policy Committee 2/10/22

Wazlawik said Maine is the first state to ban all non-essential uses of PFAS in products by 2030.

“That was actually an approach that I preferred to take in our state, but I knew we didn’t have the support in the Republican-controlled Senate to actually get that done, despite the fact that we know these chemicals are harmful and that they are in our environment and they’re expensive to clean up,” Wazlawik said. “We tried to take this approach to sort of tackle some of the low-hanging fruit knowing that we didn’t have the support in the other body to be able to pass a more comprehensive bill, which I would have preferred.”

Rep. Josh Heintzeman (R-Nisswa) disagreed with the assertion that Republicans are the obstacle to banning PFAS. Heintzeman agreed that the chemicals are a concern and that laws should maybe be approached at a federal level.

“It’s not that there’s any opposition necessarily to trying to work on this issue because we all recognize that PFAS is a dangerous problem,” Heintzeman said. “These chemicals, no question, need to be more closely looked at.”

Heintzeman later added: “I think this is something we could work on in a bipartisan way. This approach as referred in testimony today, targeting retailers as the enemy and potentially levying fines of over $10,000 if you cumulatively have many days of violations, that doesn’t seem to be the answer in my opinion.”

Civil penalties could reach $10,000 per day of violation, according to the nonpartisan House Research Department. Defendants could also be required to compensate the state for the value of cleanup, loss or destruction of wildlife and other damages.

Tony Kwilas, director of environmental policy for the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, said there are more than 4,000 chemicals that are considered PFAS and not all have adverse effects or need further study. He said there are more than 6,000 current uses of PFAS.

“I don’t believe the science is out there yet,” said Rep. Tama Theis (R-St. Cloud). “I don’t believe that we’ve got the data that absolutely says we’re on the right path with the bill.”

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