January 09, 2020

Chair DeFazio Applauds T&I Member Effort on PFAS

Washington, D.C. – Today, Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR) offered his support for H.R. 535, the PFAS Action Act of 2019. This comprehensive legislation attempts to prevent or limit human and environmental exposure to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) related chemicals from a variety of pathways, as well as spur the cleanup of PFAS-related contamination. These so-called “forever chemicals” because of their long-term persistence when released into the environment have been linked with numerous human health risks, including increased risk of cancer, immune system impairment, and impaired child development. Yet, the current lack of comprehensive management of these chemicals has resulted in widespread human exposure to these substances, including their presence in drinking water sources and other rivers, lakes, and streams throughout the United States.

DeFazio expressed support for two amendments, one offered by T&I Committee member Congressman Antonio Delgado (D-NY). “This is a common-sense amendment to use existing tools within the Clean Water Act to prevent industrial dischargers from secretly releasing PFAS-related chemicals into our municipal sewers – in essence, making them someone else’s responsibility. The amendment offered by my colleague on the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, the gentleman from New York would address this current loophole, and make it unlawful for an industrial discharger from releasing PFAS-related chemicals into a municipal sewage treatment system without first disclosing the nature and volume of chemicals being released,” said DeFazio. In September 2019, the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment received testimony from Michael Hickey, a resident of Hoosick Falls, NY, and a constituent of Mr. Delgado, on the human health impacts of exposure to PFAS-related chemicals.

DeFazio also supported an amendment offered by T&I Committee member Congressman Chris Pappas (D-NH), the Vice Chair of the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, to address the fact that currently, companies can discharge almost unlimited quantities of PFAS-related chemicals into our nation’s rivers, streams, and lakes because these chemicals are largely unregulated under the Clean Water Act. “Even the Trump administration, in its 2019 PFAS Action Plan, recognizes the concern about the human health effects of PFAS-related chemicals, and the ongoing releases of PFAS chemicals from industrial facilities, such as chemical manufacturers, pulp and paper mills, and textile manufacturers. Even the Trump administration has pledged to do more to control these ongoing sources of pollution. Yet, this amendment, offered by my colleague on the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, goes a step further by establishing a clear framework and statutory deadlines for understanding and addressing ongoing sources of PFAS chemicals,” said DeFazio. A similar amendment offered by Mr. Pappas was unanimously approved by the House in July 2019 as part of the National Defense Authorization Act; however, this provision was not included in the final bill, which was signed into law in December.