Shaheen Responds to Trump Administration Reversal on PFAS Cleanup Standards

April 26, 2019

Shaheen in SASC

In March, Shaheen Questioned Acting Secretary Shanahan on this very concern during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) issued the following statement in response to news reports that the Department of Defense (DOD) pressured the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) into lowering proposed cleanup standards for groundwater pollution caused by per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The proposal follows assurances Shaheen secured from Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan that the DOD would not weaken these standards. In March, Shaheen questioned Shanahan about this specific concern during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing and followed up with a letter to the DOD and EPA, requesting that the department and agency release communications they’ve had with the White House, and with each other, regarding the establishment of federal drinking water standards for PFAS and groundwater pollution guidelines related to these chemicals. 

“If reports are true that the Department of Defense pressured the Environmental Protection Agency into proposing weaker PFAS cleanup standards, this directly contradicts assurances given to me and Congress as a whole regarding PFAS standards. The Trump administration needs to be fully transparent about how these standards were reached,” said Shaheen. “Families throughout New Hampshire and Americans at hundreds of contaminated sites across the nation have been exposed to PFAS chemicals in their drinking water supplies – we cannot afford to stop, or go backward, on this issue. Acting Secretary Shanahan and Administrator Wheeler need to respond to the concerns of the American public who’ve been impacted by PFAS contamination and continue to worry and wait about the potential health implications related to their exposure.” 

Earlier this year, Shaheen joined Senators Tom Carper (D-DE) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) to introduce the PFAS Action Act, which would mandate that the EPA within one year of enactment declare PFAS as hazardous substances eligible for cleanup funds under the EPA Superfund law, also known as CERCLA.

Senator Shaheen has spearheaded efforts in Congress to uncover the potential health effects related to PFAS contamination. Shaheen successfully established the first-ever nationwide health study on the impacts of PFAS substances in drinking water. Because of the New Hampshire Congressional Delegation’s efforts, Pease will serve as the model site for the nationwide PFAS health study. In the last Congress, Shaheen introduced bipartisan legislation with Senator Rob Portman (R-OH)—the Safe Drinking Water Assistance Act— that would improve federal efforts to identify and address the public health effects of emerging contaminants such as PFAS. In February, Senator Shaheen led a bipartisan letter with Senator Capito that called on the EPA to establish federal drinking water standards for PFOA and PFOS, to which the EPA responded that it “intends” to establish these standards.