Pallone Floor Statement on H.R. 535, the PFAS Action Act


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. Mr. Chairmain, the 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
in drinking water. It failed to produce hazard determinations
for 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 my
own, 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, Mr. Chairman. 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 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 that 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. The two chemicals 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 that they’re 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 the two chemicals, 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. Mr. Chairman, this 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. I want to particularly thank Chairman Tonko
for all that he did to put together this package and of course the sponsor of this package
Ms. Dingell for Michigan who has faced so many problems from your home state. Mr. chairman where Ms Dingell is also so much
involved. And the bill includes a number of pieces of
legislation before our committee by members of the Energy and Commerce Committee as well
as other member from this body. And with that I reserve the balance of my
time. Thank you Mr. Chairman.

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