A top priority of environmental groups and health advocates fell one vote shy of passing the Oregon Senate Tuesday. The bill would’ve banned a potentially toxic chemical from baby beverage containers. Rob Manning reports supporters were surprised by the failure – but don’t believe the effort is over.
What impact would a limited ban on the chemical BPA have in Oregon?
The chemical Bisphenol-A, or BPA, has appeared in the linings of plastic containers and metal cans for years. But scientists have increasingly warned that BPA carries health risks, especially for infants and toddlers. Portland-area senator, Jackie Dingfelder pressed for a limited ban on BPA, as other states are doing.
Jackie Dingfelder: “Washington, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania are enjoying overwhelming bipartisan support in their state houses on various BPA phase-out bills. Colleagues, Oregon’s babies and children can not wait any longer, especially when doctors, scientists, and pediatricians across the nation are calling for reducing BPA exposures in very young children.”
Republicans argued with the validity of the science, and they questioned the potential range of the affected products. Leading the opposition was senate Republican, Jason Atkinson, who acknowledged it’s a tough bill to vote against.
Atkinson: “Nobody wants to vote against nursing Moms, and mothers, and all that – of course not.”
Atkinson suggested the BPA bill on the senate floor was flawed. But he said the problem went beyond that – to the motivations of the supporters.
Atkinson: “When asked in committee, and when asked in many offices, if this was their target – which was sippy cups and baby bottles – if that was what their target was, they wouldn’t answer. Because they don’t want to stop there, they want to go into what becomes Oregon’s food-processing industry.”
Opponents say they’re concerned that BPA-lined canned goods could be targeted next. Ultimately, the Senate’s 12 Republicans got three Democrats to join them: Betsy Johnson of Scappoose, Martha Schrader of Canby, and Joanne Verger of Coos Bay. That meant a 15-15 tie, one vote shy of a majority.
Environmental groups wasted little time in reacting.
Isaacs: “Well, it’s one of the most perplexing votes I think I’ve ever seen in my two decades of working in politics in Oregon.”
That’s Jon Isaacs, with the Oregon League of Conservation Voters. He says the bill’s opponents caved to pressure from the chemical industry.
None of the three Democrats who voted against the bill responded to requests for comment.
Environmental groups say they can still pass a BPA bill before the session ends in a few weeks. There’s a similar bill in the house. But even if that passes, they’d still need to find at least one more vote in the state senate, to get the bill to the governor.