President Trump Promises to Veto any Legislation Mandating PFAS Regulation

Photo: Great Lakes Now from their documentary “The Forever Chemicals.”

The House is expected to pass legislation this week that would require the Environmental Protection Agency to set standards to limit the amount of toxic fluorinated chemicals (known collectively as PFAS or forever chemicals because they do not break down) that can safely be found in drinking water.  But regardless of what Congress does, and the Senate is unlikely to pass the House bill according to a leading Republican late last night, the White House said in a statement that the President would veto any legislation because it would  “bypass well-established processes, procedures, and legal requirements of the Nation’s most fundamental environmental laws….”

Why This Matters:  So much for crystal clear waters.  The administration had promised that EPA would issue new regulations creating limits on PFAS contamination in rivers and drinking water by the end of 2019, but they failed to do so.  The President prefers to keep his promises to industry, which lobbied the White House and Republican Members of Congress against requiring water utilities and other companies from having to install technology to remove PFAS from their outflows.  Of course — it is always about what industry needs — forget the thousands of service members and their families on military installations and the 1400 communities with PFAS contaminating their water systems. Not to mention that it is found in the drinking water of nearly 1 in 3 Americans.

EPA’s Failure to Regulate PFAS

The EPA, according to the Environmental Working Group, has long ignored the PFAS problem — it first learned from 3M Company in 1998 that these chemicals are toxic, and in 2001 the Company shared with the agency internal studies documenting the health risks associated with PFAS chemicals.  In 2006 EPA’s Science Advisory Board found that PFOA was a likely human carcinogen, but still, no regulations were issued — only guidance, which it issued it issued in 2009 and established a provisional health advisory for the chemicals.  The current guidance for PFAS is no more than 70 parts per trillion of PFAS in water, but Democrats and public health groups say a lower standard is needed to protect public health.  For example, the state of New Hampshire is currently fighting to impose a standard of 12 parts per trillion (ppt) for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), 15 ppt for perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), 18 ppt for perfluorohexanesulfonic acid (PFHxs), and 11 ppt for perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA).

What’s In the Bill?

According to The Hill, the bill does several important things to fight PFAS pollution, including:

  • requiring PFAS to be covered under the hazardous waste cleanup law;
  • imposing a five-year moratorium on the development of new PFAS chemicals;
  • mandating new regulations for production and cleanup of such toxic chemicals;
  • requiring the EPA to regulate PFAS air pollution under the Clean Air Act; and
  • creating standards for the proper disposal of PFAS chemicals.

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