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Congress considers PFAS bill despite threatened veto

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Melissa Benmark
Michigan Radio

Michigan’s efforts to combat PFAS contamination could get a boost from a bill up for a vote on Friday in the U.S. House of Representatives.  

PFAS are a group of industrial chemicals. PFAShave been used in a wide variety of ways, from manufacturing to firefighting. Some of them have been linked to serious health problems, including cancer.

PFAS contamination has been turning up more and more frequently in drinking watersystems across the state of Michigan. For example, the chemicalshave been detected at levels exceeding 70 parts per trillion in private wells near the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscodaand at Robinson Elementary School in Grand Haven. 

The bill (HR 535) would require the Environmental Protection Agencyto set a limit for PFAS in drinking water. The agency has announced it's starting a process to do that for two kinds of PFAS.

But Representative Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn), the bill’s sponsor, says the EPA needs to move faster.

“Here’s the reality. EPA has completely abandoned its responsibility to act. We’re not cleaning up the contamination,” says Dingell. “I’ve been in Congress for five years. Every time EPA testifies, I have raised this and every time they say ‘we’re going to get’ and ‘we’re going to issue something.’ And they haven’t done it. And that’s why we need this action.”

The bill is expected to pass the House with bipartisan support. However, it faces an uncertain future in the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate.

And even if it passes the Senate, the bill is already facing a veto threat from the White House.

This week, the White House issued a statementannouncing its opposition to the bill:

The regulatory process works best when EPA and other agencies are free to devise regulations based on the best available science and careful consideration of all the relevant facts. By truncating the rulemaking process, this legislation risks undermining public confidence in the EPA’s decisions, and also risks the imposition of unnecessary costs on States, public water systems, and others responsible for complying with its prescriptive mandates.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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