Click here to watch Ranking Member Capito’s opening remarks.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee held a hearing to evaluate the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) responses to the presence of PFAS chemicals.

Below is the opening statement of Ranking Member Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), as prepared for delivery:

“Thank you, Chairman Carper, for calling today’s hearing, and thank you, Assistant Administrator Fox for being here to discuss EPA’s efforts to address PFAS, including the new ‘PFAS Strategic Roadmap’ that was announced earlier in the week.

“Before I turn to PFAS, I want to take a moment to thank Ms. Fox for all of the agency’s efforts in helping to deal with the lead issues that were discovered in Clarksburg, West Virginia.

“While there remain some process questions about how we got to where we are, I appreciate EPA’s close coordination with the state of West Virginia and the city of Clarksburg to ensure that the citizens of Clarksburg have safe drinking water. Thank you for that.

“As you know, addressing PFAS contamination is extremely important to me and is one of my highest priorities as EPW Ranking Member.

“EPA has been working hard to better understand and address PFAS for many years now, and across multiple administrations. I would note that there is increased interest and increased awareness among our membership here in the Senate of the pervasiveness of PFAS.

“While I applaud EPA for the progress the agency has made, much work remains.

“Of utmost importance to me is that EPA expeditiously sets drinking water standards for two specific PFAS: PFOS and PFOA.

“This has been a long standing priority of mine and I am pleased that the Biden administration has stated it will complete these standards in the ‘Roadmap’ under a process initiated by the Trump administration.

“I also appreciated that the White House—and EPA specifically—responded quickly to my February 17 letter by lifting the Biden administration’s freeze on promulgating these regulations.

“It is vital that Americans have safe drinking water, and these regulations will help ensure that.

“I look forward to hearing an update.

“However, the new ‘Roadmap’ touches on a whole host of EPA offices and statutory authorities, and often the details—particularly on timing—within the document are vague and several years down the line.

“The American people deserve to have the transparency into how EPA plans to address these regulatory matters, when, and how the science will be leading the conclusions and outcomes.

“I also look forward to hearing detailed updates on these other potential regulatory actions and EPA’s PFAS research activities, in your office and others, which I know are necessary to form the basis of appropriate federal action.

“Back in April, I wrote to EPA requesting an update on the agency’s research initiatives.

“I was disappointed that EPA’s reply did not provide any of the information I requested.

“As I stated in my April letter, many of the regulatory and enforcement actions the federal government and states may pursue related to PFAS hinge on continued research.

“Quite simply, we need a more in-depth understanding of the chemistry and environmental and health challenges posed by this broad class of compounds.

“The ‘Roadmap’ released only on Monday fails to describe what new research or technological breakthroughs are triggering or modifying EPA’s approach to addressing PFAS.

“As EPA has said, ‘robust research is a prerequisite to improving [EPA’s] understanding of the risks associated with [PFAS] and helping the agency make more informed decisions to protect public health.’

“I hope that you, Assistant Administrator Fox, are prepared to share the current status and expected completion dates for EPA’s incomplete PFAS research and regulatory efforts today and why—after a history of missing internal deadlines on this issue area—we should expect something different this time around.

“It is vital that EPA ensures that science—not politics—is driving the agency’s regulatory decisions.

“My colleagues and I cannot determine that is the case with this administration without improved transparency and the latest information from EPA detailing what the agency knows, what it does not know, and how progress is being made.

“I have helped ensure that EPA has the necessary authorities to fill any information gaps related to PFAS.

“PFAS legislation that I drafted, the PFAS Release Disclosure and Protection Act, was approved by this committee and ultimately signed into law as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020.

“Several of these authorities are cited in the ‘PFAS Strategic Roadmap.’

“One of the reporting requirements in my legislation was that companies comply with a one-time reporting event for PFAS manufactured since January 1, 2011.

“EPA proposed a rule to implement that requirement this summer.

“I hope the information the agency will obtain from this reporting and others like the TRI and TSCA Section 8 will better inform the agency as it determines how to best address the challenges of PFAS contamination.

“As I believe we all know, PFAS are present all over this country and all over the world with background levels of contamination from a multitude of sources. This is a very complex issue.

“But, the actual threats to human health and the immediate environment tend to be highly localized.

“This is exactly why a deliberative, science-backed approach to testing and remediation is necessary.

“Lastly, with plenty of misinformation out there, appropriate risk communication from the federal government is critical for helping our constituents understand and address this PFAS pollution.

“I look forward to hearing updates on each of these important issues, and I thank you again for coming.” 

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