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Tonko Decries Removal of NDAA Provisions Addressing PFAS

House Democrats fought for provisions mandating EPA regulate harmful PFAS pollutants

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Washington, December 10, 2019 | comments

WASHINGTON – Congressman Paul D. Tonko voiced his dissatisfaction of the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) conference report for excluding amendments to address per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). In September, Tonko was selected to represent the House of Representatives in negotiations with the United States Senate over the final terms of the NDAA, which shapes the funding and operations of the U.S. Department of Defense. 

“I am disappointed that the NDAA is not addressing PFAS pollutants with the urgency needed to safeguard our communities and the American people,” Congressman Tonko said. “For years, these ‘forever chemicals’ have been entering our air and water, putting countless families at risk of exposure to these dangerous and potentially deadly pollutants. Democrats in the House have long pushed for Congress to take the necessary steps to protect our drinking water systems and work to restore the many towns, cities and military bases that have already been contaminated. Despite this setback, I and my colleagues will continue to fight to ensure that every American has access to safe, clean drinking water.”  

While the NDAA included some language to address PFAS contamination, many of the most critical provisions were left out of the final agreement. Earlier this year, the House unanimously adopted a provision that would have required the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate PFAS as a hazardous substance under our nation’s Superfund law. The inclusion of this amendment in the final agreement would have begun a process of identifying and cleaning up contaminated PFAS sites throughout the country. Another provision would have, for the first time, mandated the EPA set clear limits on the level of PFAS chemicals in waterways. A third provision to require EPA to set national drinking water standards for certain PFAS was also dropped from the conference agreement. During negotiations, Senate Republicans also refused to include requirements that any drinking water standard for PFAS be protective of vulnerable populations, including infants and pregnant women.

Last month, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce voted to advance a set of comprehensive legislation designed to reduce PFAS exposure, among other requirements. The package of bills were advanced out of the Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change, which Tonko chairs. Just last evening, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced that the PFAS Action Act would be brought to the House floor for a vote when the House reconvenes in January 2020.

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