Read the full article by the Environmental Working Group

“Proposed budget cuts championed by House Republicans jeopardize federal plans to tackle the toxic ‘forever chemicals‘ known as PFAS. 

The Interior and Environment Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, which funds the Environmental Protection Agency, has proposed cutting the agency’s budget by more than one-third in fiscal year 2024. If enacted, this would reduce the EPA’s funding to the lowest level in three decades – all but ensuring that the agency will fall further behind in meeting its goals for addressing the PFAS contamination crisis.

‘At a time when stronger environmental protections are needed, the proposed cuts to EPA’s budget are alarming,’ said Elizabeth Southerland, Ph.D., a former senior EPA official. ‘If approved, the EPA’s funding would plummet to levels unseen in three decades, casting a dark shadow over the agency’s vital mission to address the ever-pressing PFAS contamination crisis. Brace yourselves for a potential public health reckoning.’

The EPA has already reported that establishing controls on industrial releases of PFAS will be contingent on Congress increasing the agency’s  clean water program funds  

The Defense Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, which funds the Defense Department, is looking to cut environmental cleanup funding by nearly $500 million. Data the DOD published in 2021 and 2022 reveal its contaminated site cleanup liability has increased by over $8 billion in just one year, showing a need for more funding, not less. 

‘The PFAS crisis is outrunning the federal response,’ said John Reeder, vice president of federal affairs for the Environmental Working Group. ‘Congress should not make the crisis worse by cutting essential funds.’ 

‘PFAS discharges into water need to be controlled, and Congress must ensure this toxic mess is cleaned up,’ he said.

Federal agencies have already fallen behind on many PFAS action milestones promised under the Biden administration’s government-wide plan, released in October 2021, to tackle forever chemicals, one of President Joe Biden’s top environmental priorities. 

EWG’s Federal PFAS Report Card, which tracks the administration’s implementation of its PFAS agenda, finds that almost 40 percent of the planned actions slated for completion, or 25 of 65 , are overdue or only partly fulfilled.  

Overdue or incomplete actions include assessing PFAS threats from air emissions, requiring companies to test the safety of chemical compounds already in use, and taking action to control ‘upstream’ industrial discharges of PFAS that threaten community drinking water supplies, as well as freshwater fish and wildlife

Beyond the backlog of 25 actions currently overdue or only partly complete, federal agencies have deadlines looming for 15 more actions, all of which are scheduled for completion before the end of 2023. 

‘It is crucial that these deadlines be kept. Communities have waited decades for action. Without more funding, it could be decades more before they are safe from PFAS,’ Reeder said..

While Republicans are proposing steep budget cuts, some industries are actively pushing Congress to create unprecedented exemptions from legal liability for PFAS pollution under the federal Superfund law.  

‘Legislation creating PFAS loopholes in our federal cleanup law is a step backward for communities that have waited for so long,’ Reeder said.

PFAS are called ‘forever chemicals’ because they are among the most persistent toxic compounds in existence, contaminating everything from drinking water to food, food packaging and personal care products. They never break down in the environment.

PFAS are toxic at very low levels and have been linked to serious health problems, including increased risk of cancer and harm to the reproductive and immune systems

The federal government must step up its efforts to address PFAS contamination. Actions must be sufficiently funded and adhere to the agency’s already announced timelines. This would fulfill the president’s promises while safeguarding public health and protecting the environment.”