Pallone Floor Statement on H.R. 535, the PFAS Action Act
Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) delivered the following remarks on the House Floor tonight during consideration of H.R. 535, the PFAS Action Act, which was favorably reported out of the Committee in November:
Madam Speaker, H.R. 535, the PFAS Action Act of 2019, is a comprehensive package of strategies to regulate PFAS chemicals, clean up contamination, and protect public health.
PFAS are an urgent threat to public health. They are toxic, persistent, and being found in the environment across the country. These “forever chemicals” have long been linked with adverse health effects including cancer, immune system effects, infertility, impaired child development, high cholesterol and thyroid disease.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has known about these risks for decades and has allowed this contamination to spread. Last year, EPA announced its PFAS Action Plan. It was woefully inadequate, and since that time, we’ve learned that EPA is not even keeping the weak commitments it made in that plan. The EPA failed to meet key end-of-year 2019 deadlines. It failed to produce a regulatory determination for PFOA and PFOS in drinking water. It failed to produce hazard determinations for these two chemicals under Superfund. And it failed to initiate reporting under the Toxic Release Inventory.
The Trump Administration is failing hundreds of impacted communities, and Congress must act for communities like Hoosick Falls, New York; Parchment, Michigan; Parkersburg, West Virginia; and far too many more.
We need to act on behalf of states like New Jersey that are doing everything they can – adopting protective state drinking water standards, pursuing natural resource damage cases – but facing strong opposition from federal agencies under the Trump Administration. There have been over 500 detections of PFAS in drinking water and groundwater sources in New Jersey. This is unacceptable.
It is time for Congress to take action and use every tool available to stop the flow of PFAS pollution into our environment and our bodies. And that’s exactly what the PFAS Action Act does.
This bill requires EPA to immediately designate two PFAS chemicals – PFOA and PFOS – as hazardous substances under Superfund, the two most studied of the PFAS chemicals. EPA committed to make this designation in their action plan last year, but has failed to fulfill this promise.
The legislation requires that over a five-year period EPA review all other PFAS chemicals and decide whether to list them under Superfund. During that five years, the bill will require comprehensive health testing of all PFAS chemicals. This is a really important point. You may hear my colleagues talk today about the need to base decisions on science – this bill will generate that science. PFOA and PFOS will be regulated up front, because we already have the science on them, and other PFAS will be regulated if, over the next five years, the science concludes they are hazardous.
The bill also includes a moratorium on any new PFAS during that same five-year period. This will provide EPA the time it needs to ensure it has enough science to really evaluate new PFAS.
H.R. 535 also requires a drinking water standard that will cover at least PFOA and PFOS, and other chemicals at EPA’s discretion. Importantly, the drinking water standard will have to protect public health, including the health of vulnerable populations such as pregnant women, infants and children. And because treating drinking water to remove PFAS is expensive, the bill includes grants for water utilities.
The bill includes a voluntary PFAS-free label for cookware, which may be expanded through amendments to include additional categories of consumer products. This label will empower consumers to take steps to protect themselves from exposure to PFAS.
And the bill requires guidance for first responders to help them minimize their exposures to PFAS chemicals. This is important because PFAS is commonly found in firefighting foams.
Taken together, this is a serious, comprehensive and reasonable bill that should garner strong, bipartisan support. I urge my colleagues to support this bill, and I reserve the balance of my time.