Energy & Environment

House Democrats add some ‘forever chemicals’ provisions to defense bill after spiking major amendment


House Democrats added several amendments aiming to regulate a class of cancer-linked chemicals called PFAS to a defense spending bill Monday. 

The additions followed the failure of the chamber to add a broader amendment that would tackle the substances. 

PFAS chemicals are also often called “forever chemicals” due to their persistence in nature and the human body. They are found in firefighting foam that is used by the military as well as a variety of household products. 

The House version of the bill, known as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), is slated for a vote on Tuesday. 

On Monday, the House added amendments from Reps. Antonio Delgado (D-N.Y.), Andy Levin (D-Mich.), Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pa.) and Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.) that aim to study or limit PFAS. 

The provision from Levin would temporarily prevent the Defense Department (DOD) from incinerating PFAS until the Defense secretary finalizes disposal regulations. 

The Delgado amendment would require all PFAS manufacturers to disclose any discharges of the substance over 100 pounds. Last year, the House required the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to make manufacturers report discharges of some types of PFAS in the same quantity, but Delgado’s measure would prevent the agency from applying a certain exemption. 

The Houlahan and Perlmutter amendments would increase or require PFAS studies. 

However, late last week, a broader amendment presented by Reps. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) and Bill Posey (R-Fla.) that would designate PFAS a hazardous air pollutant in an attempt to clean up the substance was determined to be outside the bill’s rules.

“It’s disappointing that my bipartisan amendment, which cleared the House earlier this year on a strong bipartisan vote, is being ruled out of order to the NDAA because of budgetary points of order,” Dingell said in a statement after the fact. 

“We can find ways to afford billion dollar weapons systems or tax breaks for the wealthy and yet we cannot set a safe drinking water standards for PFAS or clean up contaminated sites for a forever chemical,” she added.

“When the budget rules are such that we, the American people, are put at a disadvantage for merely making polluters clean-up their own mess or making EPA ensure safe drinking water under authorities we already gave them, then there is something fundamentally wrong with the way we’ve set up these rules.”

Politico reported on Tuesday that supporters of stronger PFAS regulations may try to target the chemicals through a bill funding the Interior Department and the EPA. 

The House in January passed a bill that would require a mandatory drinking water standard for PFAS and require it be covered under the hazardous waste cleanup law, among other measures. 

Last year, Democrats also attempted to include PFAS measures in the NDAA but many were eventually stripped from the final version of the legislation

Rebecca Kheel contributed. 

Tags Andy Levin Antonio Delgado Bill Posey Carcinogen Debbie Dingell Ed Perlmutter harmful chemicals NDAA PFAS

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