PFAS bills clear first hurdle, opposition emerges from coalition of companies

A batch of bills that would limit or ban the use of PFAS chemicals in Minnesota cleared its first legislative hurdle Thursday.

PFAS chemicals have a long history in the East Metro after the groundwater for thousands of people was contaminated by the so-called "forever chemicals."

"While the attention has been on the East Metro wells and aquifers, water all over the state is impacted," said Avonna Stark of Minnesota Clean Water Action.

Man-made chemicals do not break down naturally in the environment and have been linked to serious health problems like cancer.

At the Minnesota State Capitol, DFL lawmakers are pushing a batch of bills that would limit or ban the use of PFAS chemicals altogether.

"Preventing the pollution of these persistent chemicals is necessary to protect human health and the environment," said Tom Johnson of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency during a senate committee hearing held Thursday afternoon.

Senate File 834 would ban the sale of products containing intentionally added PFAS chemicals – including items like cleaning products, cookware, cosmetics and juvenile products as early as the year 2025.

During a meeting of the Senate Environment Committee, lobbyists for a variety of manufacturers and companies testified against SF 834.

A coalition of 60 companies and associations signed a letter to the committee to oppose SF 834, calling it "overly broad" with the potential to ban "thousands of products from sale and transport" into Minnesota.

"We urge the committee to follow the science when considering such far-reaching restrictions," said Christopher Finarelli of the Household and Commercial Products Association. "We’re concerned there hasn’t been a sufficient scientific evaluation of the thousands of diverse chemistries this bill seeks to eliminate."

Backers of the bills are gearing up for a two-chamber effort.

"I really do think this is a very complex issue. But I do think that these bills that we're working on are bills that have been kind of through the process a couple of times, and they will do what we're looking to achieve," said Rep. Jeff Brand (DFL).

Other bills being considered would limit the use of PFAS in firefighting foam and create disclosure requirements for products that contain the chemicals.