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Overnight Energy: House passes sweeping bill on 'forever chemicals' | Green groups question Pentagon about burning of toxic chemicals | Steyer plan would open US to climate refugees

Overnight Energy: House passes sweeping bill on 'forever chemicals' | Green groups question Pentagon about burning of toxic chemicals | Steyer plan would open US to climate refugees
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'FOREVER CHEMICALS' BILL HEADS TO SENATE: The House on Friday passed legislation to broadly regulate a cancer-linked chemical over objections from the White House that Congress is sidestepping agencies.

The bill, which passed 247 to 159, targets a class of chemicals abbreviated as PFAS that have been leaching into the water supply across the country, causing health problems in communities where water has been contaminated.

Democrats have argued the bill is necessary due to a lack of action from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 

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"The Environmental Protection Agency has known about these risks for decades and has allowed this contamination to spread. Last year, EPA announced its PFAS Action Plan. It was woefully inadequate, and since that time, we've learned that EPA is not even keeping the weak commitments it made in that plan," House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) said on the floor during debate late Thursday, referencing the EPA missing a self-imposed deadline for announcing how it would regulate the substance.

"It is time for Congress to take action and use every tool available to stop the flow of PFAS pollution into our environment and our bodies," Pallone added.

PFAS are used in a variety of nonstick products such as raincoats, cookware and firefighting foam. They are considered "forever chemicals" because of their persistence in the environment and in the human body, with 99 percent of those tested found to have PFAS traces in their body.

The legislation is Democrats' latest attempt to regulate PFAS after similar, but less far-reaching measures were stripped from the must-pass defense policy bill. 

Under the bill the EPA would be required to set a mandatory drinking water standard for PFAS.

The EPA currently recommends water contain no more than 70 parts per trillion of PFAS, but Democrats and public health groups say the agency needs an actual requirement -- one that will likely need to be below that level to protect public health.

Republicans lamented that negotiations to require that drinking water standard fell apart in December.

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But now that the legislation incorporates measures from 11 previous PFAS bills, Republicans, including those in the White House, say the bill is too broad, making little distinction between the more than 6,000 forms of PFAS. And they say the bill opens up too many parties to liability.

"Innocent parties like drinking water utilities that just treated what they got from their source water are hostage to endless liability for cleanup, regardless of their personal contribution. In fact, I would argue, they didn't do any contribution. Why not exclude the water district from Superfund liability if they are just the pass through?" asked Rep. John ShimkusJohn Mondy ShimkusHere are the 17 GOP women newly elected to the House this year Asbestos ban stalls in Congress amid partisan fight Women rise on K Street — slowly MORE (R-Ill.). 

Republicans have also argued Congress is jumping ahead of regulatory processes that should be handled by the EPA.

Read more about the bill here.

 

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More on forever chemicals...

 

BURNING UP: A group of environmental organizations is raising alarms about the Defense Department's alleged incineration of PFAS chemicals, also called "forever chemicals" due to their persistence in the environment and human body.

The green groups, which include the Sierra Club and legal group Earthjustice, argued in a letter to Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperTrump administration pulls out of Open Skies treaty with Russia The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Trump, Biden clash over transition holdup, pandemic plans President is wild card as shutdown fears grow MORE that incineration is now in violation of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and that the department "must immediately cease all PFAS incineration until it has come into compliance."

Lawmakers originally included broad provisions to deal with PFAS chemicals in an early version of the NDAA, many of which were cut. 

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The law now requires, however, that incineration is conducted at a temperature range "adequate to break down PFAS chemicals while also ensuring the maximum degree of reduction in emission of PFAS," among other stipulations. 

The letter argues that this and other requirements are being violated by the Department of Defense (DOD).

"The incineration of chemicals that are designed to not combust at facilities known to violate environmental laws places the public at risk," it said. "Several of the signatories to this letter represent members who live and work in the communities surrounding the incinerators that DOD has chosen for the incineration of [PFAS-containing Aqueous Film Forming Foam.]"

DOD did not immediately respond to The Hill's request for comment. 

Read more here.

 

CLIMATE REFUGEES: Democratic presidential candidate Tom SteyerTom SteyerLate donor surges push election spending projections to new heights New voters surge to the polls Trump leads Biden in Texas by 4 points: poll MORE wants to make people fleeing the effects of climate change eligible for legal entry to the U.S.

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His immigration plan, unveiled Friday, called for the creation of new "legal categories" to help people trying to escape "climate-related catastrophes" to legally come into the country. 

Steyer has placed climate initiatives at the center of his platform. He has said he would declare climate change a national emergency his first day in office and has called the issue "the most important international problem we're facing."

The sprawling plan also called for reinstating the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, creating a pathway to citizenship for undocumented individuals and reforming immigration agencies such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement. 

"I will make it my duty to not only undo the policies that are systematically attacking immigrant communities of color, but create a system that allows immigrants of every background a chance to build a life in our country," Steyer said in a statement.

Read more about the plan here

 

 

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ON TAP NEXT WEEK:

On Tuesday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee will examine legislation to phase down hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), heat-trapping chemicals that are used in air conditioners and other products. 

The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Oceans, and Wildlife will hold a hearing on a series of bills

On Wednesday, the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology will hear from Chris Fall, the Energy Department's director of the Office of Science. 

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Wednesday will examine the implementation of the  Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act.

Also Wednesday, the House Science, Space and Technology committee will look at climate science and solutions. 

 

OUTSIDE (AND INSIDE) THE BELTWAY: 

Tens of thousands march in Australian climate protests, we report

Under fire for use of coal, Tri-State to accelerate closure of plants, mine in Colorado and New Mexico, The Denver Post reports

Enormous 'Megafire' In Australia Engulfs 1.5 Million Acres, NPR reports

PFAS Bill Could Spark Tort 'Bonanza,' National Journal reports 

 

ICYMI: Stories from Thursday...

House passes sweeping bill to target spread of toxic 'forever chemicals'

Steyer unveils proposal to make climate change refugees eligible for legal US entry

Tens of thousands march in Australian climate protests

Green groups raise alarms about alleged Pentagon incineration of 'forever chemicals'