State issues misleading claim on EPA timeline for setting national PFAS pollution rules

Alaska’s newspapers are running a column produced by the publicity departments of two state agencies that makes a false claim about the timeline set by the federal Environmental Protection Agency to create national standards on PFAS pollution.

“We are very pleased that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has recently announced a PFAS Action Plan, which includes a commitment by EPA to make a regulatory determination within the year about whether to establish a maximum contamination level for drinking water for the PFAS chemicals PFOA and PFOS,” says the column, published under the names of DEC Commissioner Jason Brune and transportation commissioner John MacKinnon.

Meanwhile, KUAC-FM had a piece this week quoting a DEC official making a similar statement about the so-called action plan.

Anyone reading these claims might think that a “regulatory determination” this year means that EPA plans to set maximum contamination levels on PFAS in drinking water this year.

But anyone who thinks that would be wrong. What the EPA intends to decide this year is whether it should set contamination standards.

The National Law Journal said it could several years for the Trump EPA to set maximum contamination levels on PFAS chemicals in drinking water. The Natural Resources Defense Council said the EPA action plan “pushes enforceable standards, if they come at all, five to ten years down the line.”

Deciding whether to set a standard is not the same as setting a standard. The newspaper column should be corrected to tell Alaskans what is really going on.

The Dunleavy administration decision to exaggerate the statements from EPA and reverse an Alaska effort for more stringent regulation has opened the door to years of regulatory delays.

Because the EPA has tried to slow down the process, various states have gone ahead on their own to fill the gap, creating a patchwork of rules that can only be solved with a speedy federal process, which isn’t happening. The patchwork is not an ideal situation, but Alaska is the first state to move for more PFAS regulation and then abandon the effort.

In Pennsylvania, the response to the EPA action plan was not to celebrate, but to move forward with its own regulations because, as a state official put it, “EPA would not commit to a specific time frame and the people of Pennsylvania cannot wait on the federal government.”

Alaska is willing to wait on the federal government, the Dunleavy administration decided.

Dermot Cole2 Comments