Read the full article by Tom Perkins (The Guardian)
“The US chemical industry likely spent over $110m during the last two election cycles deploying lobbyists to kill dozens of pieces of PFAS legislation and slow administrative regulation around ‘forever chemicals’, a new analysis of federal lobbying documents has found.
The industry’s onslaught was effective: only eight pieces of legislation that targeted PFAS made it through Congress, the paper prepared by the Food and Water Watch (FWW) nonprofit found.
‘There’s an extreme amount of money that’s going into fighting [PFAS legislation],’ said Amanda Starbuck, FWW’s research director and the lead author on the report. ‘It’s hard to win these fights when there’s so much funding being put in from the opposing side.’
PFAS are a class of about 14,000 compounds used to make products resist water, stains and heat. They are known as ‘forever chemicals’ because they do not naturally break down, and they have been linked to cancer, high cholesterol, liver disease, kidney disease, fetal complications and other serious health problems.
As the dangers from PFAS have come into sharper focus over the last decade, lawmakers, the Environmental Protection Agency and other administrative agencies have come under an ever-increasing amount of pressure to rein in the chemicals use and clean up pollution. Chemical manufacturers’ spending has jumped in response, the report noted
‘The chemical and associated industries are powerful and have used their army of lobbyists and campaign finance war chests to thwart meaningful action,’ the paper states.
It looked at lobbying records for eight major producers, such as 3M, Chemours, and Honeywell. During the 2019-2020 and 2021-2022 election cycles, over 130 PFAS bills were introduced in Congress, the report noted. Of the eight that passed, only two were stand alone bills, while PFAS provisions were included in several larger pieces of legislation, like the National Defense Authorization Act.
Though the report identified over $110m in spending in lobbying records that mention PFAS legislation or rules, it is unclear what portion of that was spent solely on PFAS proposals because lobbying documents are not specific.
The American Chemistry Council, which represents major PFAS manufacturers, accounted for $58m of that total, and dispatched lobbyists on numerous bills including those targeting environmental and drinking water standards. The petrochemical industry and groups represented by the US Chamber of Commerce Coalition also focused heavily on PFAS issues.
Industry put up the fiercest resistance to the PFAS Action Act, versions of which were introduced in each cycle. The bill would have designated PFOA and PFOS – two PFAS compounds that are among the most dangerous and are widely polluting the nation’s water – as hazardous substances under US Superfund law. The designation, reserved for the nation’s most dangerous chemicals, would have made manufacturers financially responsible for the cleanup.
Eight PFAS manufacturers FWW tracked paid a combined total of 28 lobbyists to work on the 2019 version of the PFAS Action Act.
‘Altogether, the PFAS manufacturers funded an arsenal of lobbyists to work these bills, using staff lobbyists as well as professional lobbying firms,’ the report said.
It also detailed over $450,000 in campaign contributions to members of the US Senate committee on environment and public works, which is where most PFAS legislation is introduced. Committee chair, Democrat Tom Carper, received about $38,000, while Shelley Moore Capito, a ranking Republican senator, received about $85,000.
Still, the tide may be shifting. Increased public scrutiny, media attention, and a growing body of independent research have caught the public’s attention, and that’s pressuring officials and lawmakers to act in a way that is largely unprecedented for chemical pollution.
‘The familiarity is huge, as is people understanding and being rightfully outraged,’ Starbuck said. ‘Momentum is building.’”