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Biden’s PFAS plan targets Pa., other states plagued by ‘forever chemicals’ | Tuesday Morning Coffee

The White House announced an action plan Monday that includes expanded FDA testing, and swifter action by the Pentagon to address PFAS at bases across the country

October 19, 2021 7:15 am

(Image via deepblue4you/E+ via Getty Images/The Conversation)

Good Tuesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

The Biden administration has announced what it’s describing as an “accelerated effort” to protect Americans from so-called “forever chemicals” in drinking water in Pennsylvania and other states that can cause severe health problems.

The administration says its plan to tackle the chemicals formally known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) is a multi-pronged effort that will include eight federal agencies, among them, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, the Department of Defense, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“To safeguard public health and protect the environment, the efforts being announced will help prevent PFAS from being released into the air, drinking systems, and food supply, and the actions will expand cleanup efforts to remediate the impacts of these harmful pollutants,” the administration said in a Monday fact-sheet announcing the initiative.

The chemicals are used for a variety of purposes, including making waterproof cosmetics, stain-resistant fabrics and carpeting to non-stick cookware. They’re also used in fire-fighting foam at military installations, leading to contamination at scores of military bases, including the Willow Grove Naval Air Station in suburban Philadelphia.

The chemicals pose a significant public health risk. They’ve been linked to cancer and other serious health problems, the Capital-Star reported in 2020.

Photo by PxHere.com

The plan the White House released Monday calls on the EPA to release a beefed-up version of its PFAS roadmap, which guides the agency’s current and planned activities through 2024 to research, restrict and remediate the chemicals.

Those actions include a “a new national testing strategy to accelerate research and regulatory development, a proposal to designate certain PFAS as hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), and actions to broaden and accelerate the cleanup of PFAS. The roadmap is the product of the EPA PFAS Council, which [EPA Administrator Michael S.] Regan established shortly after winning confirmation by the U.S. Senate.”

Regan rolled out the improved roadmap during an event in North Carolina on Monday, the administration said in a statement.

The plan calls says the Pentagon is “moving swiftly to address PFAS at DOD sites throughout the country.”

According to the White House, the Defense Department is “currently conducting PFAS cleanup assessments at the nearly 700 DOD installations and National Guard locations where PFAS was used or may have been released, and expects to have completed all initial assessments by the end of 2023.”

And, over the next three years, “the FDA will proactively engage with and continue to support states when suspected areas of PFAS contamination may impact food and expand its PFAS analysis method development,” the White House said.

The U.S. Departments of AgricultureHomeland Security, and Health and Human Services, as well as the Federal Aviation Administration also are taking action to combat PFAS in their own ways

Coordination of the new PFAS response-related actions across the federal agencies will be aided and guided by the newly-formed White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), the Michigan Advance, a sibling site of the Pennsylvania Capital-Starreported Monday.

Monday’s announcement also comes even as the administration continues its efforts to pass President Joe Biden’s infrastructure deal and “Build Back Better” agenda, both of which dedicate funding for drinking water PFAS contamination.

WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 21: The U.S. Capitol is shown at dusk.(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

On the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, federal lawmakers have been taking their own steps to address the pollutants.

In July, the majority-Democrat U.S. House approved legislation designating PFAS chemicals as hazardous substances that would spark federal clean-up standards. The bill passed 241-183with 23 Republicans joining Democrats in voting for it.

U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, whose Bucks County-based 1st District, has been afflicted by the contamination, and who has emerged as a voice for advocacy, joined with eight of Pennsylvania’s nine Capitol Hill Democrats to vote for the bill, according to an official House roll call.

The Keystone State’s remaining eight Republican members of Congress voted against the bill. U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, D-18th Districtwho announced his retirement on Monday, was marked as non-voting at the time.

“As co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional PFAS Task Force, the time is now to support the PFAS Action Act so that we can better protect Americans from the harmful effects of these dangerous chemicals,” Fitzpatrick wrote on Twitter after the vote.

The bill faces an uncertain fate in the narrowly divided U.S. Senate.

In a statement, the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit, the Environmental Working Group, applauded the EPA’s action but criticized the DODFDA and FAA for not moving fast enough on PFAS, the Advance reported.

“No one should have to worry about toxic forever chemicals in their tap water,” Scott FaberEWG’s senior vice president for government affairs said. “We’re grateful that [EPA’s Regan] will fulfill President Biden’s pledge to address PFOA and PFOS in our tap water and will begin to turn off the tap of industrial PFAS pollution.”

“After more than two decades of delay, it’s good news that EPA is finally starting to act. But we must move even faster to turn off the tap of PFAS pollution by industry. Communities living downwind and downstream of these polluters have waited decades for action,” Faber added.

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

Our Stuff.

Building a ticket that matches Pennsylvania’s diversity could pose a challenge for Democrats in 2022Stephen Caruso reports.

In a party-line vote, a state Senate panel has advanced a GOP-authored bill requiring Pa. schools to post their curriculum and book titles onlineMarley Parish reports.

The state agency tasked with fighting the opioid epidemic in Pennsylvania said that it will now focus on substance abuse disorders as a whole, as the agency tries to combat a rise in people combining such dangerous drugs as fentanyl and heroin, Cassie Miller reports.

On a blustery October Monday, state officials announced the beginning of the home energy assistance program for the 2021-22 winter season, Cassie Miller also reports.

During a news conference Monday, Gov. Tom Wolf announced four bills aimed at expanding Pa.’s ‘It’s On Us’ initiative, which fights sexual assault and violence on campus. Cassie Miller has the details.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health confirmed 11,208 new cases of COVID-19 in the commonwealth between 12 a.m. on Saturday and 12 a.m. on Monday, bringing the statewide total to more than 1.51 million cases since the start of the pandemic, I report.

Long-serving U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle of Pittsburgh announced his retirement on Monday. And state Rep. Summer Lee, D-Allegheny, and Pitt Law prof Jerry Dickinson could be among the contenders vying to replace him, our partners at Pittsburgh City Paper report.

The leadership of District 1199C, a Philadelphia healthcare workers union, has been removed from office by its national union, the National Union for Hospital and Healthcare Employees (NUHHCE), our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune report.

On our Commentary Page this morning, Philadelphia Tribune columnist Michael Coard pays tribute to the Black Panthers on their 55th birthday. And as a patriot and Black man, the late Gen. Colin Powell, who died Monday from complications from COVID-19, embodied the ‘two-ness’ of the African-American experience, a Brandeis University scholar writes.

Philadelphia City Hall (Image via pxHere.com)

Elsewhere.

The Inquirer ran the numbers, and finds Philadelphia to be one of the most racially segregated cities in the country.

Leaders in Pittsburgh’s Black community have paid tribute to Colin Powell, who died Monday, aged 84. The Post-Gazette has the story.

Central Pennsylvania schools are ‘scrambling’ to feed studentsPennLive reports.

LancasterOnline runs down what’s known — and unknown — about a shooting at the popular Park City Mall over the weekend.

Pennsylvania has reached a vaccine milestone — now what? The York Daily Record has the story.

A state appellate court has ruled a that lawsuit seeking to block the use of electronic voting machines used in Northampton County and elsewhere can move forward, the Morning Call reports.

President Joe Biden will visit Scranton on WednesdayThe Citizens’ Voice runs down what’s know about the trip.

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman continues to dominate in fundraising as he pursues the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in 2022, WHYY-FM reports.

WESA-FM has more on state Rep. Summer Lee’s, D-Alleghenycongressional bid.

Native American and Native Alaskan leaders say a rise in their numbers in the 2020 Census underlines the need for increased education about native peoples, Stateline.org reports.

U.S. Senate Democrats have rolled out the rest of their proposed spending bills for fiscal 2022, Roll Call reports.

Here’s your #Philadelphia Instagram of the Day:

What Goes On
The Senate comes in at 1 p.m. today.
9 a.m., G50 Irvis: House Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedeness Committee
11 a.m., Capitol Steps: Rally to invest American Rescue Plan money in helping to fight the pandemic
11:30 a.m., 8E-B East Wing: Senate Judiciary Committee
12:30 p.m.: 8E-B East Wing: Senate Local Government Committee
1 p.m, Quakertown, Pa.: House State Government Committee
2 pm., Tunkhannock, Pa.: House Democratic Policy Committee

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition)
8 a.m.: Breakfast for Sen. Art Haywood
8:30 a.m.: Breakfast for Sen. Mike Regan
5:30 pm.: Reception for the Senate Republican Campaign Committee
6 p.m.: Reception. for Rep. Martina White
Ride the circuit, and give at the max, and you’re out a completely offensive $26,000 today.

WolfWatch
By the time some of you read this, Gov. Tom Wolf will already have done an 8:07 a.m. interview with KDKA-AM radio in Pittsburgh.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept
Best wishes go out this morning to Borys Krawczeniuk, of the Scranton Times-Tribune, who celebrates today. Congratulations and enjoy the day, sir.

Heavy Rotation
In a just universe, New York-by-way-of-North Carolina alt.rockers The dB’s should have been huge. But like one of their progenitors, Big Star, they’ve been granted beloved and respected cult status. A new compilation, ‘I Thought You Wanted to Know,’ which collects remixes, live tracks, and B-sides from their early 1980s heyday, is a great introduction to their hooky and literate pop songs. Here’s one of my favorites, ‘Black and White,’ which amply demonstrates their way with a tune.


Tuesday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link
Forward Auston Matthews returned to the Maple Leafs’ lineup for the first time this young season on Monday night. But it wasn’t enough – Toronto lost to the visiting New York Rangers 2-1 in overtime at Scotia Bank Arena.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek
John L. Micek

A 3-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. An award-winning political reporter, Micek’s career has taken him from small town meetings and Chicago City Hall to Congress and the Pennsylvania Capitol. His weekly column on U.S. politics is syndicated to 800 newspapers nationwide by Cagle Syndicate. He also contributes commentary and analysis to broadcast outlets in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Micek’s first novel, “Ordinary Angels,” was released in 2019 by Sunbury Press.

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