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National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020

Floor Speech

Date: July 12, 2019
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. SHIMKUS. Madam Chair, I claim time in opposition.


Mr. SHIMKUS. Madam Chair, this amendment is anything but simple. It is highly complex. Per- and polyfluorinated compounds, there are probably 5,000 different permutations, and my colleagues act like it is one formulation; and it is multiple.

So what they want to do is, in essence, do a de facto ban by claiming a class of 5,000 chemicals as qualified for toxic and in the Superfund; and that is a de facto ban of all these applications.

We are all going to fly home tonight. We are going to close the door to the plane. We are going to have this seal, and this seal is what is used to protect--the seal around the airplane door--us, so we don't get sucked out. Banned, toxic Superfund.

No one disputes our colleagues' concerns and maybe my concern about former installations, current installations, and water in ditches from firefighting foam. So let's deal with that issue.

Let's not do what this amendment and other amendments will do which is throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater.

So what do we use some of these formulations of per-and polyfluorinated compounds--again, some 5,000--for? We use it to save the lives of people.

Here is a stent, which are in millions of people. PFAS banned, de facto banned, because it falls under a Superfund. No one is going to make them because they don't want to be held legally liable if this stent eventually goes into a landfill. So we don't need that anymore.

More kids than I know are born with a hole in their heart. So what is the chemical compound that helps plug the hole, so these children can grow and mature? Oh, it is a PFAS-formulated compound. So let's have a de facto ban on this device.

Remember, these medical devices are approved by our Food and Drug Administration. They say they are safe to be inserted into the human body. So why would we then say, if it is safe to be inserted into the human body, these medical devices are now going to be unsafe in a landfill, and then you have a Superfund act and, again, a de facto ban?

This shouldn't be in this debate. I have great respect for the chairman and the ranking member, but this is a National Defense Authorization Act. It is not an Energy and Commerce Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee act; and I hope we will take that up.

EPA deals with toxicologists, analytical chemists, organic chemists, epidemiologists, chemical biologists, material scientists, theoretical chemists. Those are the ones who are going to help us decide which of the 5,000 permutations of PFAS are actually good and which ones are actually harmful.

But this says they are all bad. It is like--my folks don't want me to use this example. It is like saying, an orange is bad. Let's ban all fruit.

Okay. No, we are going to take the peeling of a banana and throw it in a dump. Oh, no, that is going to be a toxic dump under Superfund, and no one is going to have and harvest bananas anymore. That is just ridiculous.

It is moved by emotion. We understand that. It is moved by real problems and groundwater contamination. We are not against that.

My plea is, let's use the committee process, and help you and help me and these other communities affect change and provide safe drinking water to our communities.

We have got the water communities who are afraid of this amendment. They are afraid of this amendment because of previous practices, and then them falling under Superfund liability, and then having to raise rates based upon providing sludge to farmers who put it on their ground, and then they get held up in this Superfund trap.

So I have all the waterway councils, all the water works, the municipal utilities that are saying, this is not the way to go to ban a whole class, and this is going to put us on the hook, and it is going to raise water rates.

I also have a list of 20 or so manufacturing sectors. They said, let's clean up the water. Let's not ban a whole class. July 11, 2019.

To the Members of the U.S. House of Representatives: We, the undersigned associations, believe that Congress should act to address contamination associated with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in a manner that prioritizes cleanups over bureaucracy. For this reason, we oppose Amendment 440 offered by Reps. Kildee and Dingell, and Amendment 48, offered by Rep. Pappas, to H.R. 2500, the ``National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020.''

PFAS are a large and diverse class of chemicals with unique properties that have been used in a broad number of beneficial applications for decades. Heightened attention to potential health effects of certain PFAS chemicals has understandably led to increased public concern and interest in new regulatory protections in this area.

We support action to address these concerns, and are committed to proactively working with Congress, regulators, and other stakeholders to establish risk-based standards for PFAS that protect human health and the environment.

We applaud the leadership of Reps. Kildee, Dingell, and Pappas for pushing Congress to address PFAS contamination. Amendments 440 and 48, however well-intentioned, are unproductive approaches to expeditiously address PFAS contamination.

Amendment 440 would require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to designate all PFAS as hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), or Superfund, within one year. Similarly, Amendment 48 would require EPA to add all PFAS to the list of toxic pollutants regulated by the Clean Water Act and establish effluent and pretreatment standards, which could trigger ``back door'' CERCLA designations.

CERCLA listing decisions are not political questions that Congress is best positioned to address. EPA should retain its traditional authority to study potentially hazardous substances and to ascertain whether they should be designated under CERCLA. The Superfund program has a strong track record, and EPA's career scientists have the requisite expertise to examine PFAS.

Moreover, Amendments 440 and 48 would likely lead to slower cleanups because of an overwhelmed EPA and the potentially needless reopening of vast amounts of remediated sites. Such an approach could also undermine the nascent progress towards clean up at some of the prevalent, known contaminated sites.

We are disappointed that an amendment proposed by Rep. Fitzpatrick, with Reps. Boyle, Upton, McKinley, Rouda, and Blunt Rochester, will not come up for a vote in the House. The approach of this bipartisan amendment, which mirrors provisions of the defense authorization bill passed by the full Senate, would have encouraged the development of a consistent approach and clear timelines for assessing and regulating specific PFAS across all relevant federal agencies to ensure that government regulations, actions, and communications are consistent and coordinated for maximum effectiveness.

Congress's goal should be to create conditions for cleanups to occur as expeditiously as practicable. While we oppose Amendments 440 and 48, we applaud the work of the amendments' sponsors and the other leaders of PFAS issues in both parties for their important contributions. We look forward to working with you on this important matter as the legislative process continues. Sincerely, Airlines for America; Airports Council International-- North America; Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers; American Chemistry Council; American Forest & Paper Association; Council of Industrial Boiler Owners; Flexible Packaging Association; International Liquid Terminals Association; National Association of Chemical Distributors; Plastics Industry Association; Petroleum Marketers Association of America; Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates; TRSA, the Linen, Uniform, and Facility Services Association; U.S. Chamber of Commerce.


Mr. SHIMKUS. Madam Chair, I yield back the balance of my time.