Click here to watch Ranking Member Capito’s opening remarks from the committee hearing.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee held a hearing titled, “Examining Extended Producer Responsibility Policies for Consumer Packaging.”

Below is the opening statement of Ranking Member Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) as delivered.

“Thank you, Senator Carper, and good morning to all of you. It’s nice to be here this morning.

“This Committee’s continued focus on sustainability and waste management issues have underscored the fact that we have a waste problem, both here in this country, and around the world.

“Like any complex issue, it’s kind of easy to sit here and list out all the problems, but it’s a very difficult to start finding realistic solutions.

“You have one crowd saying we need to end all plastic production tomorrow. That position just does not make sense.

“Acknowledging our continued reliance on plastic and working to prevent plastic pollution are not mutually exclusive.

“Private sector sustainability goals and international regulatory developments like the global plastic treaty currently under negotiation, indicate the waste management policy landscape is very much in flux.

“U.S.-based companies with global footprints are staring down an uncertain regulatory and economic future.

“My primary focus in evaluating extended producer responsibility policies under consideration is making sure that they are grounded in reality, and consider the downstream impacts to everyday consumers, including regressive costs that could be passed down, and especially in rural areas where current recycling programs are more limited and the cost of standing up [new] ones are more expensive.

“Companies cannot operate efficiently if they must conform to international standards that do not have American interests in mind, or if they have to conform with 50 different packaging and disposal requirements to sell their products if every state had their own provisions.

“Past experience in other environmental areas has shown us that states with the biggest populations and the most stringent restrictions will become the regulatory floor.

“Those states’ policies can then unfairly dictate the national market to states like mine that have structural impediments to recycling access and limited resources to funding that necessary infrastructure.

“Preventing this outcome, and a recurrence of the state-on-state fight over vehicle emissions standards and its market uncertainties, is why we need to be having these types of conversations about the nationwide impacts of EPR policies.

“As sustainability shifts from marketing buzzword to a potential revenue driver and competitive advantage, industry, government, and the environmental community must work together to achieve outcomes that protect both the environment and grow the economy.

“For that outcome to be achievable, we must be, in my opinion, technology-agnostic and avoid mandates around EPR or circularity that may have unintended consequences.

“If draconian federal standards are imposed, it may chill growth in any emerging sector.

“We are seeing this happen in how IRS guidelines, for instance, on hydrogen tax credits, with no basis in law, are stifling the development of that market that’s particularly hitting my state and my hydrogen hub. That’s why I bring it up.

“The same cannot be allowed to happen in the recycling and waste management spaces.

“During today’s hearing, we’re likely to hear conditional statements along the lines of ‘The devil is in the details…’ or ‘If done correctly…’

“These precautionary labels will frequently arise in EPR discussions.

“They emphasize the need to discuss all the potential consequences, both intended and unintended.

“Done correctly, EPR could significantly improve domestic recycling, the rates, reduce waste, and provide new opportunities economically.

“Equally so, a poorly crafted EPR scheme would laden regressive financial burdens on consumers, privilege large companies over smaller companies, and open the door for targeted bans for materials out of favor such as plastic.

“While I can understand the rationale behind EPR, I have yet to see a proposal that adequately is addressing all these concerns. That’s why we’re here today.

“To start, any EPR scheme that fails to recognize the importance of chemical recycling will never meaningfully improve recycling rates.

“We must carefully consider what stakeholders should have a role in decision making, such as the waste management industry who is often left out.

“We also need to think about the appropriate role of government.

“The last thing U.S. companies need is another layer of bureaucracy to navigate.

“So, I look forward to hearing the panel.

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for having this hearing.”

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