Read the full article by Tripp Baltz, Ellen M. Gilmer, Amena H. Saiyid, and Sylvia Carignan (Environment & Energy Report, Bloomberg Law)
“After decades of inaction, the federal government has gotten serious about cleaning up PFAS, a class of compounds known as ‘forever chemicals’ that have been linked to health problems and inhabit the bloodstream of nearly every American.
Congress has introduced dozens of bills mentioning ‘PFAS’ so far in the 2019-2020 Congress, many more than in previous years. The boom in legislation has sparked a major increase in lobbying. In 2017, only four entities mentioned the issue in government lobbying reports. In 2018, the number grew to 35, and by 2019, it rocketed to 164.
More water utilities—which have pushed back against certain provisions to clean up PFAS—have lobbied on regulation of the chemicals than any other group. They rank above the air travel industry, cities, and chemical companies, a Bloomberg Law analysis shows.
‘I continue to be shocked that people charged with keeping our water clean have been among the most vocal opponents of getting PFAS out of our water, and are in many respects just as bad as many of the polluters whose mess they are charged with cleaning up,’ said Scott Faber, senior vice president for government affairs with the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit advocacy organization.
PFAS chemicals have invaded the nation’s water supply, thanks mostly to discharges from manufacturers and the use of firefighting foam by the military. Utilities are concerned about being stuck with major expenses if the compounds are declared ‘hazardous’ under the federal Superfund law. They have also resisted efforts in Congress to push what they see as overly broad enforcement limits on PFAS in drinking water.
‘We consider our top priority to be public health and that has been our mission for as long as we’ve been in existence,’ said Tracy Mehan, who heads federalgovernment affairs for the American Water Works Association, in response to Faber’s comment. The utility trade group’s membership includes over 4,300 utilities that supply roughly 80% of the nation’s drinking water and treat almost half the nation’s wastewater.
While the Superfund designation didn’t make it into law last year, some other, narrower reforms did, relating to the military. Meanwhile, nearly half the states are writing their own guidance, regulations, or legislation on PFAS chemicals, with some running into opposition from utilities.
One basic question underlies the debate over what to do about what is arguably one of the most pervasive public health threats facing Americans in years: Who is going to pay to clean up this mess…”