On its surface, non-stick or otherwise, a new bill banning so-called “forever chemicals” in New Jersey products may seem well-intended.
But in testimony before the Senate Environment and Energy Committee this week, NJBIA Deputy Chief Government Affairs Officer Ray Cantor warned strongly that the legislation is way too broad in its scope and will have a devastating impact on manufacturing in the state.
“Since 1990, we have lost 2.6% of the manufacturing jobs per year in New Jersey, more than double the national rate,” Cantor told the committee on Thursday. “There has to be a reason for that. And part of the reason is we pass laws that are overly broad, and they never go away.
“We would just ask that you be cognizant of the impacts on manufacturers, and that just because something is in a product, doesn’t mean it has a health impact.”
Bill S-3177, which was only up for discussion on Thursday, would ban certain products containing intentionally added perfluoroalkyl or polyfluoroalkyl substances, better known as PFAS.
PFAS are referred to as “forever chemicals” due to their durability in high heat and water, and they are known to not break down in the environment. They’re found in thousands of consumer products, including cookware, carpets, cosmetics, outdoor apparel, and food packaging, just to name a few.
The bill is sponsored by Sen. Bob Smith (D-17) and Linda Greenstein (D-14), who, perhaps ironically, is the chair of the Legislative Manufacturing Caucus.
More ironic, as noted by State Chamber of Commerce Vice President of Government Relations Michael Egenton in his testimony, manufacturing, the very industry that stands to lose the most, was born in the state of New Jersey.
“The New Jersey Business & Industry Association was founded on manufacturing,” Cantor added. “And manufacturing is still significant in the state.”
“In 1990, we had over 500,000 manufacturing jobs. Since then, we have lost 291,000 of those jobs. It’s not just because jobs have gone overseas. It’s because of the actions, the laws, the regulations that the Legislature, the DEP and other agencies have passed.”
The business community, including the state Chemistry Council, have noted that an overwhelming majority of the approximately 5,000 chemicals in the PFAS group are safe, which would essentially penalize manufacturers if New Jersey was to take a one-size-fits all approach in banning them.
A peer-reviewed study of PFAS chemicals last year also found, among multiple points, that all PFAS should not be grouped together for risk assessment purposes and that it’s inappropriate to assume equal toxicity/potency across the diverse class of PFAS.
THE MAINE EVENT
The legislation also puts many burdens on the state Department of Environmental Protection to both monitor what is going into the many products produced by state manufacturers, to control an application process, and to enforce the laws.
Cantor noted that the agency does not have the resources to do all that work effectively.
“Four years ago, (lawmakers) passed legislation on public access and those regs haven’t even been proposed yet,” Cantor said. “We know there is limited capacity over there to do certain things.”
Maine enacted a similar PFAs ban law that went into effect this year and Cantor said the results, so far, have been disastrous.
“The law is so extensive that it applies to over 3,000 compounds, which are pretty much in thousands of products,” he said. “There haven’t been enough testing labs to find out what is in every product, and companies have not been able to meet requirements in time.
“As a result, Maine has already granted 2,400 extensions already for companies to comply and they are revising the law as we speak.”