Click here to watch Chairman Barrasso’s remarks.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), delivered the following remarks at a hearing titled “Examining legislation to address the risks associated with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).”
The hearing featured testimony from Kimberly Wise White, Ph.D., senior director of Chemical Products and Technology at the American Chemistry Council; Lisa Daniels, past-president of the Association of State Drinking Water Administrators and director of the Bureau of Safe Drinking Water at the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection; Scott Faber, senior vice president of Government Affairs at Environmental Working Group; and G. Tracy Mehan, III, executive director of Government Affairs at American Water Works Association.
For more information on witness testimony click here.
The following bills were considered at the hearing:
• S. 638, PFAS Action Act of 2019;
• S. 950, PFAS Detection Act of 2019;
• S. 1251, Safe Drinking Water Assistance Act of 2019;
• S. 1372, PFAS Accountability Act of 2019;
• S. 1473, Protect Drinking Water from PFAS Act of 2019; and
• S. 1507, PFAS Release Disclosure Act.
Senator Barrasso’s remarks:
“Today, we are going to continue the committee’s work examining the risks associated with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances or PFAS.
“PFAS are a large class of chemicals known for their resistance to oil and to water.
“Since the 1940s, PFAS have been used in a broad array of industrial, commercial, and consumer applications – including nonstick cookware, waterproof clothing, stain-resistant fabrics, food packaging, and fire-fighting foams.
“Scientists have found that these chemicals breakdown very slowly, if at all, in the natural environment.
“They have also found that some accumulate in the human body.
“These chemicals travel through water, air, and soil.
“Humans ingest them, inhale them, and absorb them through their skin.
“It’s estimated that 97 percent of Americans have detectable concentrations of PFAS in their blood.
“Some of these chemicals are associated with a number of negative health effects.
“To date, scientists have detected pollution from these chemicals all over the world and in nearly every state.
“It appears to be concentrated in communities located near or downstream from military bases, airports, firefighting facilities, and chemical manufacturing and processing facilities.
“In March, this committee heard from four witnesses – representing the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Defense – in order to learn what steps the executive branch is taking to address the risks associated with PFAS.
“Today, we are going to examine six bipartisan bills, which have been introduced to address these risks.
“They include: S. 638, introduced by Ranking Member Carper and Senator Capito; S. 950, introduced by Senators Stabenow and Rounds; S. 1251, introduced by Senators Shaheen and Portman; S. 1372, introduced by Senators Stabenow and Rubio; S. 1473, introduced by Senators Gillibrand and Capito; and S. 1507, introduced by Senators Capito and Gillibrand.
“Addressing this pollution is a priority of this committee.
“That is why we included provisions to help public water systems address emerging contaminants – including PFAS – in America’s Water Infrastructure Act.
“It is also why I intend to negotiate and report a bipartisan legislative package, addressing PFAS pollution, this Congress.
“I cannot support some of these bills, as currently written.
“For example, I’m concerned about side-stepping the rulemaking process used to assess the risks associated with chemical compounds under our nation’s bedrock environmental laws.
“Congress established these rulemaking processes decades ago.
“It believed federal agencies are better positioned to evaluate the science behind the regulation of chemicals.
“In addition, I question whether we should treat all PFAS as if they posed the same level of risk to human health and the environment.
“These chemical substances vary widely.
“While much more research is needed – the risk these chemicals pose seem to vary as well.
“Some of these compounds are used in medical devices, like pacemakers.
“Others are used in inhalers.
“It is critical that we acknowledge the differences among these chemicals.
“I also have concerns about Congress imposing superfund liability on parties that used these substances in good faith.
“For example, our nation’s airports, refineries, and others used fire-fighting foam containing PFAS in order to protect their workers and the public at large.
“Others, like metal finishers, used these chemicals as a means to successfully reduce air emissions and workers’ exposure to cancer causing heavy metals.
“All these entities were either following regulations or the industry’s best practices.
“Still others, like wastewater treatment facilities and landfills, are often unknowing recipients of PFAS.
“Congress has a critical role to play in ensuring that the federal government responds to the risks associated with these chemicals in a timely manner.
“Today’s hearing is an important step in identifying how we should proceed on this issue.”