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Rep. Brendan Boyle Introduces Bill to Force EPA to Create PFAS Chemical Standard

May 1, 2019
In The News

(This article appeared in the May 1, 2019 edition of The Intelligencer)

U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle, D-2, of Philadelphia, has introduced a bill that would require the Environmental Protection Agency to set a safe drinking water standard for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, within two years. Currently unregulated, PFAS chemical contamination is emerging in communities across the country, including in a handful of Bucks and Montgomery towns.

The bill is similar to one introduced by Boyle in 2017, but now has the backing of House Energy & Commerce Committee chair Frank Pallone, D-6, New Jersey, who is a co-sponsor of the bill. The bill would also require the EPA to create a drinking water standard for all PFAS, and not just the two chemical family members most known to the public, perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA).

“It is past time we address these contaminants with the seriousness they merit,” Boyle said in a prepared statement. “Public health is at stake while the EPA continues to dither and delay setting enforceable limits on these chemicals. This is unacceptable.”

As previously reported, EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler visited Philadelphia earlier this year to detail the agency’s “PFAS Action Plan,” which included a commitment to announce whether it will pursue the creation of a federal drinking water standard for the chemicals by the end of the year. Wheeler added he had “every intention” of ultimately setting a drinking water standard.

But advocates and even EPA officials have said that process could take years to complete. A pair of environmental groups hailed Boyle’s bill, called the Protect Drinking Water from PFAS Act of 2019, as addressing some of the uncertainty.

“To date, the EPA has promised only to set a drinking water standard for two types of PFAS, and the agency’s timetable even for this step is uncertain,” Stephanie Wein, clean water advocate for PennEnvironment, said in a news release. “This bill is critical to ensure timely and more comprehensive protection for the drinking water of millions of Americans.”

The Environmental Working Group, an environmental nonprofit that has tracked PFAS contamination throughout the country and estimates as many as 110 million Americans have some level of the chemicals in their drinking water, also applauded the bill.

“If the EPA won’t do its job and help communities stop the flow of PFAS-contaminated water into homes, schools, and businesses, Congress must force them to act,” said Scott Faber, the group’s senior vice president for government affairs.

The bill’s number is H.R. 2377, although legislation-tracking websites do not yet have the full text available. Along with Boyle and Pallone, listed co-sponsors are Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick, R-1, of Middletown, Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Michigan, and Paul Tonko, D-New York. Tonko is also chair of the chamber’s Environment Subcommittee.

A news release from Boyle’s office said the legislation is “the product of discussion with federal officials.” It adds the Energy and Commerce Committee plans to consider the bill and other PFAS legislation “in the coming month.”