WASHINGTON – The Trump administration threatened to veto PFAS legislation on Tuesday, just days after failing to meet its promise to move forward by the end of 2019 with efforts to set a drinking water standard for the toxic fluorinated chemicals.
The Trump administration threatened to veto H.R. 535, the PFAS Action Act, which would set deadlines for EPA to reduce ongoing PFAS releases and set a drinking water standard for two notorious PFAS chemicals.
Last February, David Ross, the Environmental Protection Agency’s assistant administrator for water, pledged to Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), the top Democrat on the Senate environment panel, that “by the end of this year,” the agency “will propose a regulatory determination, which is the next step in the Safe Drinking Water Act process” for establishing an enforceable legal limit.
But although the EPA has sent a regulatory determination to the White House, administration officials have blocked efforts to require drinking water utilities to filter PFAS from tap water.
PFAS has so far been detected in more than 1,400 communities in almost every state, and EWG estimates that more than 100 million Americans may be drinking water contaminated with the highly toxic chemicals.
The EPA has also failed to designate the two most notorious fluorinated chemicals, PFOA and PFOS, as “hazardous substances” under the Superfund law, despite a pledge to do so by former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. A proposal to designate these PFAS as hazardous substances has also been blocked by White House officials.
“Just days after failing to meet a PFAS deadline, the Trump administration has threatened to veto legislation that would set PFAS deadlines,” said EWG Senior Vice President for Government Affairs Scott Faber. “It’s never been clearer that it’s time for Congress to set tough deadlines to reduce PFAS releases into the air and water, set PFAS drinking water standards, and clean up legacy PFAS pollution. If the Trump administration won't take the necessary steps to protect the public from PFAS, it's up to Congress to act."
On Friday, the House of Representatives will consider H.R. 535, which requires a federal drinking water standard for PFOA and PFOS within two years. The bill will also set deadlines to restrict PFAS discharges into the air and water, and will immediately designate PFOA and PFOS as “hazardous substances.”
The EPA has a long history of failing to act to protect Americans from PFAS. Agency officials were first notified PFAS was toxic by 3M in 1998, received internal company studies documenting PFAS’ health risks in 2001, and received more animal studies in 2003. But under pressure from industry, in 2006 EPA officials said the agency was “not aware of any studies specifically relating current levels of PFOA exposure to human health effects.” The EPA made the ludicrous claim even though in 2005 the agency had fined DuPont for failing to report PFOA’s health effects, and in 2006 EPA’s own Science Advisory Board found that PFOA was a likely human carcinogen.
It was not until 2009 that the EPA issued its first PFAS Action Plan and established a provisional health advisory for PFOA and PFOS – more than a decade after 3M shared studies showing PFAS were toxic. A second PFAS Action Plan, issued in 2019 – more than two decades after EPA was first alerted to the risks of PFAS – contains many of the same recommendations and includes no deadlines for EPA action.
Ironically, the EPA issued a press statement touting the agency’s “aggressive” efforts to address PFAS pollution just hours before the White House issued its veto threat.
“Enough is enough,” Faber said. “For too long, the EPA has failed to treat the PFAS contamination crisis like a crisis. Trump’s EPA has sunk to a whole new level of failure.”
The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action.