As communities across the country grapple with contamination of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances in drinking water sources, Sen. Tom Carper, D-Delaware, on the Environment and Public Works Committee, reacted to a moment in the Sept. 10 U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight on Government Reform Subcommittee on Environment hearing, in which two major chemical manufacturers announced their support for policies that would clarify polluter liabilities and clean up contaminated sites.
One day after members from the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate returned to Washington this week to negotiate PFAS provisions to be included in the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2020 — and days after the Office of Management and Budget warned Congressional leaders about the president’s “strong” opposition to those provisions — chemical manufacturers DuPont de Nemours Inc. and The Chemours Co. announced their support for policies that are currently being negotiated for inclusion in NDAA. The companies signaled their support for setting a national drinking water standard, enhancing public awareness of chemical releases and designating legacy PFAS as “hazardous substances” under the Superfund law to ensure contaminated sites are cleaned up.
“This is a breakthrough moment on PFAS solutions,” said Carper. “It should send a clear message to the president and any member of Congress who might still have some misplaced concerns about potential regulatory burdens associated with PFAS solutions, including declaring some PFAS chemicals as hazardous substances under the Superfund law. Some of the companies that would be regulated under these policies have now publicly declared their support for them — that’s consequential, and I commend them for their constructive engagement on the legislation being considered by Congress.”
“It seems like almost every day, yet another community has been alerted to elevated levels of PFAS in their soil or drinking water sources, from the farmers in Maine and New Mexico to the military families in Colorado, Michigan and Pennsylvania,” said Carper. “Just today, Colorado joined scores of states in putting forth its own action plan to address widespread PFAS contamination. It’s not enough for EPA to pay lip service to this issue and set more aspirational deadlines and engage in endless study, while more states and communities struggle. Now all eyes should be on Congress to see if we will step up to the plate.”
The measures supported by these two companies include measures added to the Senate version of the NDAA by Sens. Carper, Shelley Moore Capito, R-West Virginia, and EPW Chairman John Barrasso, R-Wyoming, including requirements that EPA set a national primary drinking water standard for some legacy PFAS chemicals and require PFAS manufacturers to report environmental releases of PFAS as part of Toxic Release Inventory releases.
In the Sept. 10 hearing, the companies also declared their support for designating some legacy PFAS as hazardous substances under the Superfund law. Carper’s bill, the PFAS Action Act of 2019, would mandate EPA within one year of enactment declare per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances as hazardous substances eligible for cleanup funds under the EPA Superfund law, and also enable a requirement that polluters undertake or pay for remediation. The legislation currently has 43 cosponsors and its companion bill in the U.S. House of Representatives, authored by Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Michigan, was approved unanimously by the House as part of the House NDAA in July.