February 14, 2020

Warren Joins Shaheen, Gillibrand Calling on EPA to Deliver on Promises Made in PFAS Action Plan

One Year After EPA Pledged to Act on PFAS Exposure, Key Parts of the Strategy have Yet to be Implemented

Washington, D.C. – United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) joined Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), along with a group of 29 senators, in a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler requesting he provide an updated timeline for when the EPA will implement commitments made in the agency’s plan to combat exposure to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The EPA released its plan – the PFAS Action Plan – one year ago today and has yet to implement many of the commitments outlined in the strategy. 
The senators wrote, “As you are aware, communities across the country are struggling to respond to the widespread issue of PFAS contamination.  The human health risks from this class of chemicals, which include birth defects, various forms of cancer, and immune system dysfunction, are still being examined, and the uncertainty has caused great concern among our constituents.”
The lawmakers went on to underscore that the PFAS Action Plan alone is insufficient to address the full scope and urgency of the problems associated with PFAS exposure, which is why failure to take an initial step to implement this plan is particularly concerning. They also highlighted that the EPA committed to establish federal drinking water standards last year for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), two of the most prevalent PFAS chemicals, but have also failed to follow through on that pledge thus far. The EPA’s commitment was in a letter responding to a bipartisan call from Senators Shaheen and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), urging EPA to set these standards.
In their letter, the senators went on to address other parts of the plan that have not been prioritized, including important remediation efforts to help expedite cleanup of PFAS contamination under the Superfund law. They wrote, “Yet, despite then-Administrator Scott Pruitt committing the EPA to designating these materials [PFOA and PFOS] as hazardous substances in May 2018, the EPA has not even sent a proposal to the Office of Management & Budget for interagency review, let alone published it for public comment.”
The senators closed their letter with a request that the EPA provide an update on the status of every commitment made in the PFAS Action Plan, as well as an update on the timeline for executing the priorities included in the strategy.
They concluded, “The health and environmental threats posed by PFAS are significant. Communities across America demand that the EPA help protect them from PFAS exposure. They deserve the confidence that their water is safe and free of harmful levels of PFAS contamination.”
The letter was also signed by U.S Senate Democratic Leader Senate Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and Senators Tom Carper (D-Del.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Angus King (I-Maine), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.).
Responding to PFAS contaminants in Massachusetts communities and others across the country has been a top priority for Senator Warren:

  • In December 2019, Senator Warren and the Massachusetts delegation unveiled the Affordable Safe Drinking Water Act, a bicameral bill to provide Massachusetts and other states with more tools to mitigate water infrastructure costs. This legislation allows communities to use State Revolving Fund dollars to remediate PFAS in municipal buildings, including schools.  
  • On March 20, 2019, the senator joined Senators Shaheen and Hassan, along with a group of 15 senators, in sending a letter to then-Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan and EPA Administrator Wheeler, requesting that the agencies release communications with the White House, and interagency communications, regarding the establishment of federal drinking water standards for PFAS and groundwater pollution guidelines related to these chemicals. 
  • In March 2019, Senator Warren joined Senator Carper as a cosponsor of the PFAS Action Act of 2019.
  • In February 2019, Senator Warren joined Senators Shaheen and Capito in sending a letter to then-Acting EPA Administrator Wheeler, expressing concern about reports that the agency would not establish enforceable drinking water standards for PFOA and PFOS as part of its National PFAS Management Plan.
  • The senator also joined a bipartisan letter in December 2018 to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, requesting that the agencies take additional steps to ensure that the health effects of occupational exposure to PFAS, particularly in firefighters, are sufficiently studied.
  • In August 2018, Senator Warren filed two amendments to the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act to improve data collection and research conducted on health and occupational safety concerns facing firefighters, police officers and other first responders in the Commonwealth. 
  • She also joined Senate Democratic Leader Schumer and Senator Gillibrand in cosponsoring an amendment to the 2019 Defense Appropriations bill permitting some Air National Guard funds to be used to reimburse state local water authorities for remediation of PFAS.