PFAS Legislative Timelines Not Feasible, EPA’s Wheeler Says

with permission from Bloomberg
By Pat Rizzuto | September 26, 2019 04:40PM ET | Bloomberg Law

• More scientific study needed to understand how to clean up different PFAS compounds, Wheeler says
• ‘We do not yet have adequate scientific data,” to declare all PFAS hazardous, he says

Legislation that would require the EPA to designate all PFAS as hazardous substances within one year isn’t feasible, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler said Sept. 26.

Wheeler referred to H.R. 535, introduced by Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) in January. The provision to designate all PFAS as hazardous is now included in the House’s National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 2500).

The CERCLA, or Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, provision has been backed twice by the House and is supported by 53 Senators, said Michal Freedhoff, minority oversight director for the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. She and Wheeler were among the speakers at a policy symposium on per- and polyfluoralkyl substances (PFAS) hosted by K&L Gates LLP.

That one-year requirement would bypass the agency’s existing rules for determining what is hazardous, Wheeler said.

It also would designate thousands of chemicals, “for which we do not yet have adequate scientific data,” as hazardous, and it would lump into that classification newer PFAS chemicals that previous administrations reviewed and found to not pose an unreasonable risk, Wheeler said.

One Size Doesn’t Fit All, Wheeler Says

“We do not have the data necessary to evaluate the cleanups that would be required by this bill,” which would put a label ahead of the science and be nearly impossible to implement, said Wheeler.

He discussed a variety of legislative policies being sought to regulate per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, a category of chemicals that may include several hundred or thousands of chemicals depending on how the category is defined.

Wheeler said EPA estimates there are 602 PFAS in commerce, and another 1,200 have been in commerce historically. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development estimates there are about 4,700 PFAS.


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