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GOP congresswoman votes against limiting hazardous chemicals following donations

Rep. Young Kim received donations from several companies scrutinized for using PFAS or products containing the substances, which have been found to have contaminated public water supplies across the country.

By Oliver Willis - August 26, 2021
Young Kim

Rep. Young Kim (R-CA) voted against legislation that would limit the use of harmful substances found in public water supplies across the country, after receiving campaign donations from companies who use the material or products that contain it.

The donations, listed in a July financial disclosure, came from political action committees affiliated with ExxonMobil and Phillips 66 on June 30, and Honeywell International on May 28.

The substances — per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, commonly referred to as PFAS — are man-made compounds, exposure to which the Environmental Protection Agency says can result in “adverse human health effects.”

The agency has said that PFAS have been found in drinking water near facilities that use the material.

PFAS are resistant to heat, water, and oil. They have been used in industrial processes and for products like firefighting foams, non-stick cookware, and food packaging.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that PFAS exposure can lead to increased risk of kidney or testicular cancer, decrease in infant birth weights, increased risk of blood pressure or pre-eclampsia in pregnant women, changes in liver enzymes, increased cholesterol levels, and decreased vaccine response in children.

The PFAS Action Act of 2021, sponsored by Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) seeks to designate PFAS as hazardous substances, which would allow the government to regulate and limit their use.

On July 21, Kim cast two procedural votes against the legislation and ultimately voted against its passage. The legislation eventually passed the House with 218 Democrats and 23 Republicans backing the measure. All 183 “no” votes came from Republicans.

According to data collected by the Environmental Working Group, several communities in California’s 39th Congressional District, which Kim represents, were found to have PFAS in their water supply, including the cities of Yorba Linda, Fullerton, Buena Park, and La Habra Heights.

The companies that contributed to Kim could potentially be impacted if PFAS limits are imposed and have been listed among those who use or make the chemicals.

ExxonMobil, whose PAC donated $2,000 to Kim’s campaign, has come under scrutiny in recent months for lobbying under the radar against PFAS regulations.

A recent investigation by Greenpeace found the company had used trade groups like the American Petroleum Institute and the American Chemistry Council to work against regulating efforts, with senior director of federal relations Keith McCoy admitting on a secretly recorded video, “[If lawmakers] start talking about how this is an ExxonMobil chemical and ExxonMobil is poisoning our waterways, the debate is pretty much over.”

After the Greenpeace video went public, ExxonMobil released a statement noting that “in some cases” officials worked with “third-parties to advocate for policies that are important to the industry.” They also claimed that “ExxonMobil does not manufacture PFAS” but uses firefighting foams containing the substances to put out particularly hazardous fires.

Exxon is notably a member of the Western States Petroleum Association, which represents and lobbies on behalf of industry groups in California, as well as Arizona, Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, and Nevada.

After the California State Water Resources Control Board found that facilities in the state had likely stored or used PFAS materials, it requested that those facilities submit plans regarding their use of the compounds.

The Western States Petroleum Association, in return, asked for a 90-day delay before member companies would have to deliver the reports. A senior regulatory affairs manager for the group told environmental site Capital and Main that the association’s work had nothing to do with Exxon’s lobbying, stating, “We take compliance with respect to PFAS and any constituent or concern very seriously, and we’re working hard to comply with the [water board’s] order and to advise members to comply with the order.”

Kim also received a $1,000 donation from Phillips 66 PAC. Several Phillips 66 facilities in California used PFAS, according to the water control board.

The congresswoman additionally received $2,500 from the political action committee associated with Honeywell International. According to a list released by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2020, Honeywell was among several companies who have made or imported PFAS.

Kim’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the donations.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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