Pelosi Floor Speech in Support of the PFAS Action Act

January 10, 2020
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks on the Floor of the House of Representatives in support of H.R. 535, the PFAS Action Act, to protect Americans from PFAS “forever chemicals.”  Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you, Mr. Speaker.  I thank the gentleman for yielding and congratulate him on his important amendment, which I hope will be part of this legislation.  An important study. 

Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to come to the Floor to join our colleagues, the distinguished Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, former Chair Mr. Upton, on their bipartisan support of this legislation.  I want to salute Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, a crusader in this urgent mission to protect our communities from PFAS chemicals.  And a thanks, also, to Mr. Tonko, the Chair of the Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee — but the list goes on and on, and I'll name some more. 

Last year, our Members worked relentlessly to pass bold legislation to tackle the PFAS crisis.  We salute the Members whose bills were included in the bipartisan National Defense Authorization Act agreement reached by the House.  Unfortunately, at the end of the year, the Senate GOP refused to join the House to secure full, robust protections against PFAS chemicals and key provisions were cut from the NDAA, the National Defense Authorization Act. 

That Senate GOP obstruction is why we are here today, but we're also here today because our distinguished Chairman.  Mr. Pallone promised that we would have a chance to vote on robust legislation after the first of the year.  Thank you, Mr. Chairman. 

PFAS chemicals are serious public health – contaminating the water we drink, the air we breathe and the food we eat.  These ‘forever chemicals,’ forever chemicals, which we do not exact – which do not break down easily, are exposing millions of Americans to liver disease, asthma, thyroid dysfunction, multiple forms of cancer and further health threats. 

Today, nearly all Americans, including newborn babies, expectant mothers, children have PFAS in their blood, and up to 110 million people may be drinking tainted water including, as our colleagues from Michigan have indicated the challenge in their state, represented by, indicated by the leadership demonstrated on the Floor in a bipartisan way on this issue. 

Our colleague from Hoosick Falls, New York, Mr. Delgado, has been a champion of this issue.  There, contamination from a plastics factory raised the level of PFAS chemicals in residents' blood to 100 times the national average.  Mr. Shimkus in Chincoteague, Virginia, near Maryland, where I grew up, where contamination from NASA Wallops Flight Center forced a local community to find an entirely new drinking water supply. We thank Congresswoman Luria for her leadership in all of this.  And Mr. Pappas, also with Annie Kuster, has a situation in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where contamination from Pease Air Force Base poisoned the drinking water of thousands of residents, including children and infants. 

And we had, before we won the Majority, we had a hearing, really was about a number of issues, environmental justice being one of them.  Reverend Barber, Bishop Barber, brought people from all over the country to talk about this.  I particularly remember our conversations in the testimony of Peggy Price.  She came, told a story of her family and how they were affected by what was happening at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.  It was a very sad story.  Their family suffered, the parents, the children, just a horrible situation. 

They were serving our country in Camp Lejeune and they were victimized by the water supply there. 

Particularly egregious is the epidemic of contamination on military sites, as I mentioned just now, and more than 400 sites across the United States are affected.  It is unacceptable that our men and women who sacrifice to keep us safe around the world face this danger in their health at home. 

Sadly, some big corporations and the EPA have known about the risk from PFAS chemicals for decades, but they have failed to prevent the spread of contamination.  The Trump Administration's EPA is breaking its own promises every day that it delays and puts polluters ahead of the American people. 

In stark contrast, the House is taking action.  We are cleaning up our communities by designating PFAS as a hazardous substance by the EPA, which is the key barrier to cleaning up military and industrial sites.  We are also creating new, robustly-funded grants and partnerships to help with states’ clean-up and remediation efforts.  Hopefully, we will be adding this important study that Mr. Levin is proposing to this legislation.  And we're helping stem the tide of further contamination with tough new testing, reporting and monitoring requirements; strict limits on the introduction of new PFAS chemicals; limits on air emission and banning unsafe incineration; strong measures to hold contaminating companies accountable. 

Last month, the Senate GOP fought to prevent many of these life-saving measures from becoming law in the NDAA.  Now, Senator McConnell will have to explain, once again, to the American people why he is blocking our bipartisan action to clean up contaminated communities.  

I urge a strong vote on this legislation to keep the American people healthy and safe and, again, salute all of those who've worked so hard to bring this legislation to the Floor in a bipartisan way.  I urge a yes vote and yield back the balance of my time.  Thank you.