Press Releases

Carper Secures Clear Commitment by EPA to Set a PFAS Drinking Water Standard

After pressure from lawmakers, EPA changes course and moves forward to set an enforceable drinking water standard on PFOA and PFOS

Feb 19 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a letter to U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), top Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Assistant Administrator David Ross made a clear and firm commitment that EPA will set an enforceable drinking water standard for two per- and poly-flourinated (PFAS) chemicals. Studies show that these chemicals can cause reproductive, developmental and immunological effects in humans, as well as increase the risk of cancer.

In the PFAS Action Plan announced last week, EPA announced it would determine whether or not to set a drinking water standard by the end of 2019, simply repeating and extending the deadline for a commitment that had already been made by then-EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt in May 2018. In his letter to Senator Carper, Assistant Administrator Ross made clear EPA intends to establish a drinking water standard for PFOA and PFOS.

“This is long-awaited but welcome news by EPA. Again and again, I’ve asked Acting Administrator Wheeler to make a clear and firm commitment that EPA will set a drinking water standard, and it’s about time he showed some urgency on this important issue. I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure that EPA lives up to its commitment. I will also keep working to push EPA to accelerate the rest of the measures included in the PFAS Action Plan to add urgency to the other steps that must be taken to address the widespread contamination of all harmful PFAS chemicals,” Senator Carper said.

Over the course of the nomination process for Acting Administrator Wheeler, the president’s nominee to serve in that position permanently, Senator Carper has called for a delay on the acting administrator’s confirmation until Mr. Wheeler embraces five bipartisan policies, including a commitment to set a drinking water standard for PFOA and PFOS. During his nomination hearing, Mr. Wheeler’s failure to make that commitment in response to Senator Carper was soon followed by press reports that EPA had decided not to set a drinking water standard for PFAS.

Following the press reports, Senator Carper joined a bipartisan group of senators led by Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.) in sending a letter to EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler asking EPA to reverse itself and develop enforceable drinking water standards for PFOA and PFOS. Mr. Ross’s commitment comes in response to that letter.

“I ask my Republican colleagues to believe me when I say that I’m not interested in slowing down Mr. Wheeler’s nomination process for the sake of making a political statement or sticking it to the Administration. I’m not interested in a delay for delay’s sake. With Mr. Wheeler’s nomination, we have a rare opportunity to extract meaningful policy concessions from EPA. This new commitment is proof of that winning strategy,” Senator Carper continued. 

As the nomination of Acting Administrator Wheeler heads to the Senate floor for a cloture vote, Senator Carper will continue to urge EPA to reverse course and seize four additional bipartisan “win-win” policy opportunities, including withdrawing its proposal to gut the Mercury and Air Toxics (MATS) rule, supporting Senate ratification of the Kigali amendment, striking a deal between automakers and the State of California on fuel economy and greenhouse gas tailpipe standards and finalizing a ban on methylene chloride that also protects workers from exposures to the deadly chemical.

For the PDF of the letter from Assistant Administrator Ross, click HERE.

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