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Providing for Consideration of H.R. PFAS Action Act of 2019

Floor Speech

Date: Jan. 8, 2020
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. SHIMKUS. Mr. Speaker, this is an important debate. I have been on the Energy and Commerce Committee a long time. I am the ranking member on the Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee which has jurisdiction on this.

We are in this debate today because emotion is trumping science. We are not willing to give the scientific community enough time to say that this class of chemicals is bad. We want to do something we have never done. We want to legislatively ban a chemical by legislative fiat, not by doing the due diligence of the scientific process.

I got lectured last night. We get lectured all the time about how Republicans don't believe in science on the climate change debate.

Well, then the contrary is true. Democrats don't believe in science to allow us to have an adequate debate on these chemicals. When we come to the floor, we talk about PFAS like it is one chemical. PFAS stands for perfluorinated or polyfluorinated compounds. There are over 7,800 of these types of compounds. Some are long-chain compounds; some are small-chain compounds, and they are in every aspect of our life.

In fact, the FDA has approved PFAS for food container linings. Let me get that right. Things that are touching our food, the FDA has evaluated it and said, this packaging material is safe.

But no, that is not good enough for my colleagues, because emotion, which we operate on here, especially on the floor of the House--I taught history and the Constitution, and we are supposed to be the emotive body. So this is what we do, as House Members we come to the floor, we cry out we are being harmed; government, save us, without doing the due diligence of science.

And some of this was mentioned by my colleague, Mrs. Lesko, on her debate. But in the F-16--here are all the components that are made that have some form of poly- or perfluorinated compounds in the F-16.

She used one of our favorites; why is this compound good in medical devices? It is great because--why is it good in military field jackets for our men and women in uniform? Because it repels water. That is what makes it great. That keeps our soldiers dry.

I was an infantryman. I would rather be dry in a monsoon than wet, and that is what Gore-Tex or the Gore technology that uses the PFAS type of chemical does.

We think there are two that we need to be concerned about--you have heard about it in the debate; we will hear about it more--PFOA and PFOS. But that doesn't mean the other 7,798 chemical formulations are bad.

But what this bill that they are going to be bringing to the floor is saying, ban them all, even though the FDA said for food packaging it is safe. Even though it is a lifesaving medical device that is implanted in the heart of a child who has a hole in their heart, ban that. Don't worry about it. We will figure out something else to do.

The rule is bad because there were opportunities for the bill to be fixed and brought to the floor. One dealt with medical devices. A cardiothoracic surgeon, Larry Bucshon, from Indiana, he offered an amendment to say, if you are going to have this implantable device, and then the device is not used and it is put in the landfill, please don't call that a toxic chemical, because these things save lives. That wasn't allowed in order.

We are moving into an electric vehicle world. Guess what all these components of an EV vehicle are going to be? Components with PFAS- connected chemicals.

Lithium batteries, what do you think they have in them? PFAS- connected.

So we have this next chart. Automotive parts containing fluoropolymers. Here they are. Starter motor, wiper motor, humidity sensor, engine control unit.

I understand my colleague from Michigan and the firefighter foam debate. But what do you think this does to the automobile industry, where you have all these components that are made up of some form?

So what we have been trying to do in working with our colleagues is say, let's find the ones we can agree upon and move upon.


Mr. SHIMKUS. So let's find the ones that we can agree upon and move into law.

We worked diligently, and it was mentioned before--so the debate is also going to come and say, Republicans hate people, we hate health. Nothing is going to be done. We have to save the Republic, right? Not true.

Even though I am an authorizer, as I said in the Rules Committee, we don't like when other committees usurp our authorization, right, chairman? And we don't like when appropriators do it. But they did it right at the end of the year.

In the National Defense Authorization Act, it requires EPA to mandate that drinking water systems monitor unregulated PFAS. Click that off. We did it.

Provide grants to communities to address this issue. Checkmark. We did that.

Requires new reporting of PFAS under the Toxic Release Inventory Program. We did that.

Requires manufacturers and processors of PFAS to submit health and safety information to the EPA. Another checkmark.

Guidance for appropriate destruction of PFAS, restriction of long chain.

Let me say something that is really problematic about this bill. It bans all new uses of PFAS chemicals. We know science creates healthier environments. So if we are able to create a PFAS system that may not be a major concern, we can't bring it to market because this bill bans it.

Remember, we are talking about 7,800 formulations.

It was also mentioned by my colleague that, in the omnibus bill, 20 million more dollars to go to communities to address this problem.

So as we go through this debate, I urge my colleagues to vote ``no.'' They should have brought more amendments allowed to make the bill better.

Having said that, we can go home--and we did--saying we have addressed this problem; and this bill, that takes a terrible provision of doing something we haven't done in 40 years, ever, legislatively ban a chemical.


Mr. SHIMKUS. Mr. Speaker, this is the only thing that can get signed into law. We have the Statement of Administration Policy put out last night that said, in this form, he would veto the bill.

But more challenging is the fact that numerous colleagues on the other side of the building have said they are done.

We worked with the four corners to address a compromise. What this amendment does is help move the ball forward that, unfortunately, my Democrat colleagues could not say yes to when we had three of the four corners supported; House Republicans, Senate Democrats, Senate Republicans.

So part of this exercise is to say, oh, you know, we really screwed up. Now we have got to show the public we are doing something when we rejected a four-corner compromise that could have been signed into law.

So what we do is--the Lesko amendment is the language, as I mentioned, that House Democrat and committee leaders rejected as part of the NDAA; so we are trying to then move and get the final portion of the most-agreed upon project.

It requires drinking water standards for the best-known PFAS in 2 years, using a science and risk-based approach, and creates an expedited pathway for PFAS in the future.

Listen, I would rather use total science. I don't want to use emotion. But the problem is, science takes time and emotion doesn't.

They have to show activity, but if FDA has said some of these compounds are safe for food packaging, how do we say they are all bad? Let me say that again. FDA has said some of these compounds are safe for packaging of food. How do we ban 7,800 different permutations of the PFAS?

I would not have drafted this proposal this way. There are some ideas in it that give me pause. But overall, I know how to say yes to solve problems when they need solving. Making compromise means supporting things you may not be comfortable with in order to get something everyone can live with. Don't make the perfect be the enemy of the good. Take the olive branch. Solve PFAS. Reject partisanship over problem-solving.

Mr. Speaker, I urge support of the Lesko amendment.