A Minor Christmas Miracle from Congress

Somehow, Congress managed to pass a pro-environmental law. Amazing!

Just before Christmas, the NY Times reported that Congress passed the Microbead Free Waters Act of 2015. The law bans nearly invisible small beads that have been added as abrasives to products like toothpaste.  The trouble is that the beads get into waterways, where pollutants like PCBs adhere to their surfaces.  Even more amazingly, the bill passed the Senate based on unanimous consent, with not even Ted Cruz objecting.

There were a couple of reasons why this law wasn’t controversial.  Illinois and California have already banned the beads; many other states are considering it; and even some counties have done so.  The major cosmetic companies were already phasing them out.

Still, these days, even the least controversial measure almost always seem to get stuck in the legislative process and dies, if only because it’s the perfect piece of legislation to which to add an anti-abortion rider.  Remember this is a Congress that can barely manage to fund highway construction.  So it still seems remarkable that this microbead legislation passed. (In fact, I worried for a few minutes that the reporter might somehow have been taken in by a story in the Onion, but I decided that probably wouldn’t have happened at the Times.) The word miracle is probably a bit too strong — but still, it’s a very nice and surprising way to end the year.

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Reader Comments

2 Replies to “A Minor Christmas Miracle from Congress”

  1. Merry Christmas Dan and thank you for running such an informative blog on american environmental law. I recently moved to Mexico from Canada and was wondering if you know or could suggest anyone south of the border, who is up to speed on environmental and regulatory affairs in Mexico? Thanks

  2. Congress of course will not act unless industry first gives the green light eg the micro bead ban, or the courts order expeditious action, eg that indigestible, bad tasting nothing burger called Clean Power Plan that is crawling toward Bethlehem.

    We’re choking the oceans and land with our plastics; Congress can continue to congratulate itself over the micro bead ban and go back to fundraising, or it can save the oceans and land by banning plastics that do not quickly biodegrade.

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About Dan

Dan Farber

Dan Farber has written and taught on environmental and constitutional law as well as about contracts, jurisprudence and legislation. Currently at Berkeley Law, he has al…

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