March 06, 2019

Senator Hassan Sounds Alarm on GAO Report Warning of EPA Mismanagement of Efforts to Address PFAS Contamination

hsgac gao

To watch the Senator’s questioning, click here.

WASHINGTON – Senator Maggie Hassan today participated in a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on reducing waste, fraud, and mismanagement in the federal government, where she sounded the alarm on a new Government Accountability Office report that found that during the last two years the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has made little progress – and has even taken steps backward – in assessing the public health threat of toxic chemicals, including per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Senator Hassan serves as ranking member of the Subcommittee on Federal Spending Oversight and Emergency Management.

“In particular, the report cites EPA’s leadership’s decision to cut in half the funding for the Integrated Risk Information System Program or IRIS, which identifies and assesses the health threats posed by chemicals,” Senator Hassan said. “It’s deeply concerning that, even with growing evidence that toxic chemicals are infecting our drinking water supplies, the EPA’s leadership wants to undermine and underfund one of its key tools for identifying health risks.”

Senator Hassan then asked the witness, Comptroller General to U.S. Government Accountability Office, Gene Dodaro, to expand on his concerns regarding EPA’s work to address the public health threat of toxic chemicals, including PFAS.

“We lowered the rating in leadership for two reasons,” Comptroller Dodaro said. “One was that there hadn’t been a statement or commitment focus on the IRIS issue, where we have seen that in the past Administration. And secondly, the proposed budget cuts in those areas. Now, Congress ultimately said no to the budget cuts and held the budgets stable at 2017 levels, but they still have to execute against that budget area. So we just weren’t comfortable that they stayed the commitment.”

Senator Hassan replied, “I am very frustrated to hear about EPA’s leadership failure to take this particular public health threat seriously, people in New Hampshire have really struggled to get the federal government to acknowledge the public health threat of PFAS levels in their water supply and they really do not appreciate this Administration’s lack of urgency.”   

Senator Hassan has long fought to ensure that all Granite Staters and Americans have access to clean drinking water and has cosponsored legislation to require the EPA to develop a Maximum Contaminant Level for PFOA and PFAS. This month, Senator Hassan joined a bipartisan group of Senators to introduce the PFAS Action Act, which would mandate the EPA within one year of enactment declare PFAS as hazardous substances eligible for cleanup funds under the EPA Superfund law. Last year, Senator Hassan participated in the first-ever Senate hearing on contamination of PFAS in drinking water, and joined in introducing bipartisan legislation, the PFAS Accountability Act, that holds federal agencies accountable for addressing contamination from PFAS at military bases across the country. Additionally, Senator Hassan joined the rest of the New Hampshire Delegation in calling on the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) to focus research efforts on the potential connection between PFAS exposure and pediatric cancer. Senator Hassan also worked with Senator Shaheen to help establish the first-ever nationwide health study on the impacts of PFAS in drinking water, as well as to secure funding for the study in the government funding bill that was signed into law in March 2018.