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House PFAS Bill Has ‘No Prospects’ in Senate, Barrasso Says (1)

Jan. 8, 2020, 5:31 PMUpdated: Jan. 8, 2020, 8:04 PM

A far-reaching House bill that would force the federal government to address PFAS contamination has little hope of becoming law in its current form, according to the chairman of the Senate’s environment committee.

“It has no prospects in the Senate,” Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) told Bloomberg Environment. “None.”

Barrasso’s comments came as the House is swiftly moving toward passage of H.R. 535, a bill that would change the way these persistent and potentially toxic chemicals are regulated.

In addition to forcing the EPA to set nationwide drinking water standards for the chemicals, the bill also would require the agency to add the chemicals to its hazardous substance list, which potentially could turn every contaminated location into a Superfund site.

PFAS are a family of thousands of synthetic chemicals often used in nonstick consumer goods as well as in some firefighting foam. They not only have been linked to health problems by the EPA but they also resist breaking down in the environment, which has earned them the nickname “forever chemicals.”

Barrasso said he specifically objected to the Superfund provisions in the House bill because they “go way beyond” a bipartisan measure his Committee on Environment and Public Works passed this summer.

That measure was an amendment to an annual defense spending bill. The spending bill ultimately cleared both chambers of Congress and became law last month, but without provisions that address drinking water standards.

H.R. 535 won approval in the House Rules Committee Jan. 7 and could pass the full House as early as Jan. 9.

The White House also objected to the bill, saying in a veto threat that it would impinge on the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to follow the rapidly emerging science on PFAS chemicals.

And earlier this week, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that H.R. 535 would increase the deficit by more than $320 million over the next decade. The CBO also said the measure would impose more than $246 million in unfunded mandates on state and local governments and on the private sector.

(Updated to add evaluation of H.R. 535 from Congressional Budget Office)

To contact the reporter on this story: David Schultz in Washington at dschultz@bloombergenvironment.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Gregory Henderson at ghenderson@bloombergenvironment.com; Chuck McCutcheon at cmccutcheon@bloombergenvironment.com

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