Earlier this month, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler testified before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. The purpose of the hearing was to review the Agency’s activities during the COVID-19 crisis and provide committee members the opportunity to question the Administrator on issues beyond the crisis. Highlights from the hearing related to water resources issues include:
Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) asked Wheeler about the MCLs for PFOS and PFOA that USEPA must finalize within a year under the Drinking Water Infrastructure Act. Wheeler indicated that USEPA is working on the MCLs, but that the Agency may not make the one-year deadline. He noted USEPA continues to enforce PFAS contamination clean-ups around the country, especially those related to the Department of Defense and contamination from firefighting foam.
In response to a question from Senator Kevin Cramer (R-ND), about how USEPA’s groundwater regulation will be impacted by the recent Supreme Court decision in the County of Maui v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund, Wheeler explained that the Agency is still reviewing the decision.
Finally, Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) expressed concern over USEPA’s recent enforcement discretion policy USEPA issued that allows utilities to miss permit deadlines if the lapse is due to COVID-19 related impacts. She stated her concern that the policy gives power plants and industry a blanket non-enforcement policy. Wheeler stated that no company is allowed to increase emissions under the enforcement policy and the Agency mandates that companies specify the reasoning for missing deadlines as they relate to COVID-19. Wheeler added that since March 16, the Agency has opened 52 criminal enforcement cases, charged 10 defendants, filed 122 civil enforcement actions, secured $21.5 million in Superfund response commitments, and has billed more than $20 million in Superfund oversight costs.