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VIDEO: In Floor Speech, Pingree Urges Passage of Bill to Regulate Harmful “Forever Chemicals”

Today, in a speech on the House floor, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) today urged passage of H.R. 535, the PFAS Action Act. The bill requires the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to list PFAS chemicals (also known as “forever chemicals”), including PFOA and PFOS as hazardous substances under the Superfund clean-up program within a year and to develop national drinking water regulations to test and monitor levels of PFAS in public water systems. A final House vote on the PFAS Action Act is expected later this week. 

Pingree’s speech is available for download here. Transcript of Pingree’s speech is as follows:

Thank you to Representative Scanlon for granting me the time, and to Chairman Pallone, and particularly to Congresswoman Dingell for your leadership on PFAS issues.

I rise today in support of H.R. 535, the PFAS Action Act of 2019. This bipartisan bill would take much needed and long-overdue action on these harmful forever chemicals.

These pervasive and dangerous chemicals pose serious risks to both human health and to our environment. And the delay in taking action on them has been inexcusable.

They are known hormone disruptors, and studies link exposure to them to kidney and testicular cancer, to thyroid disease, and other health problems. PFAS chemicals are concentrated in human and animal blood and tissue, and can remain there for years. It’s estimated that 99 percent of all Americans have PFAS in their blood.

In my home state of Maine, PFAS was first discovered in the groundwater at a former military installation due to use of firefighting foam containing PFAS. But PFAS contamination has been found in our public water supplies, soil, and agricultural and in animal products. 

Once in the environment, PFAS will never break down, that’s why they’re called forever chemicals, so cleanup is essential to protect people and our environment.

Companies and regulators have known about the risks of products like Teflon, Scotchgard, and yes, GORE-TEX for decades but have failed to take action to protect or inform the American people.

The Department of Defense has repeatedly refused to clean up PFAS contamination at military sites across the nation.

Because the Environmental Protection Agency has dragged its feet, we have no enforceable standards for PFAS levels in our drinking water, leaving communities without the information or the funding to protect our citizens. And there has been no action to fund cleanup because there was no requirement to clean up these dangerous chemicals.

It’s truly time to act.

The PFAS Action Act will:

  • FINALLY designate PFAS as hazardous chemicals, thereby ensuring PFAS contamination is cleaned up and polluters pay for their actions.
  • Require the EPA to develop national drinking water regulations to test and monitor levels of PFAS in our public drinking supplies.
  • And, it will add two types of forever chemicals to the EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory, so we will finally know who is releasing them into our water, soil, and air and we can hold them accountable.

I urge my colleagues to join me in taking action for the health of our communities and our environment, to vote yes on the rule and vote yes on this bill.

I yield back. 

H.R. 535 includes two major provisions relative to PFAS Cleanup that were omitted from the FY2020 NDAA compromise, which passed last month. Senate Republicans refused to accept the House NDAA provisions to regulate PFAS in drinking water and require cleanup of the chemicals under the Superfund law.

According to EPA, perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are synthetic chemicals that for decades were the main ingredients in nonstick and waterproof coatings. PFAS are found in many products, including food packaging, household cleaners and nonstick cookware. Many PFAS don’t break down in the environment or in the human body. 

According to the Environmental Working Group, 297 military sites across the United States have PFAS contamination and as many as 110 million Americans are drinking PFAS contaminated water. Maine has several PFAS contamination sites, including the former Brunswick Naval Air Station the former Loring Air Force Base in Aroostook County, and the Kennebunkport, Kennebunk, and Wells Water District. The former Pease Air Force Base in Portsmouth, NH, has also been found be PFAS contaminated. 

As Vice Chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, Congresswoman Pingree helped to secure funding for scientific and regulatory work on PFAS in the FY2020 Interior Appropriations bill. She also led a letter to the NDAA conference committee in October to include strong PFAS provisions in the final bill. 



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