Top EPW Democrat: One Year Later, EPA gets a D- on Implementation of its PFAS Action Plan

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, nearly one year after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its widely anticipated “PFAS Action Plan,” and nearly two years after the agency initially promised to take meaningful action to address widespread PFAS contamination, U.S. Senator Tom Carper, top Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, called on EPA to keep its promise to protect the American people from dangerous levels of PFAS contamination in drinking water.

On May 22, 2018, then-EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt kicked off a national PFAS summit, announcing that EPA was planning numerous steps to address the growing concerns about widespread PFAS contamination. Almost a year later, on February 14, 2019, Administrator Andrew Wheeler unveiled EPA’s PFAS Action Plan, saying, “the PFAS Action Plan is the most comprehensive cross-agency plan to address an emerging chemical of concern ever undertaken by EPA.”

Yet, one year later, the promises made in the PFAS Action Plan have gone largely unfulfilled.

“The Trump Administration has managed to make time for deregulatory proposals and environmental rollbacks, but key regulatory actions and other commitments made under the PFAS Action Plan still haven’t been met. The fact is, PFAS Action Plan is mostly plan and very little action,” Senator Carper said. “EPA is failing to uphold the promises laid out in their PFAS Action Plan. That is unacceptable.”

“It’s not enough for EPA to set more aspirational deadlines and engage in endless delay, while more states and communities struggle,” Senator Carper continue. “The American people deserve better than lip service on this issue; they deserve to know the water they put on the table is safe to drink and free from harmful levels of PFAS contamination.”

The Trump Administration repeatedly issued veto threats as Congress acted on legislation to regulate and remediate PFAS contamination, citing ongoing PFAS Action Plan efforts and expressing concerns that the legislation would bypass EPA authority. Specifically:

  • A decision whether or not to regulate PFAS in drinking water has not been made public. In December 2019, EPA sent a proposal to OMB on whether a drinking water regulation for PFOA and PFOS should be written. That proposal has not been made available for public comment, reportedly because the Departments of Defense and Agriculture are blocking its release because they want to weaken EPA’s drinking water health advisory for PFOA and PFOS.
  • No regulations to clean up PFAS have been issued. EPA has yet to submit to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) a proposed rule designating PFOA and PFOS as hazardous substances under the Superfund law despite repeatedly promising to do so. Reportedly, Trump Administration officials are actively blocking this proposal.
  • PFAS toxicity studies have been delayed. Key studies about the toxicity of specific PFAS chemicals that were supposed to be completed in 2019 have been delayed.
  • 5-year-old EPA proposals to limit PFAS uses still aren’t final. The EPA has approved the manufacture of at least 15 new PFAS in the past three years under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), but a TSCA rule first proposed in 2015 that limits new, harmful uses of PFAS has still not been finalized.

This report card, derived from EPA’s own PFAS Action Plan, provides a more exhaustive analysis of EPA’s failure to meet the commitments it set itself a year ago.