Delgado Op-Ed: Unify Leadership to Urgently Address PFAS Devastation
Wanted to be sure you saw this op-Ed by U.S. Representative Antonio Delgado (NY-19) published in the Times Union on his disappointment with the political horse-trading that derailed progress on critical provisions to address PFAS contamination and urging House leadership on both sides of the aisle to take on this issue with the urgency it demands. To read the op-Ed, click here or see below. In addition, Rep. Delgado spoke on the House floor today to demand accountability and tangible enforcement provisions from Congress to keep upstate communities safe from PFAS. His floor speech followed his statement on the result of negotiations around PFAS provisions in this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
By Antonio Delgado
Tuesday, December 10, 2019
From my first day in Congress, no issue has been more urgent, given the stakes, than PFAS contamination and its devastating effects, which include thyroid disease, birth defects, autoimmune disorders and cancer. The contaminant — which has been widely used on military bases across the country to clean equipment as well as at privately owned manufacturing plants to coat plastics — has wreaked havoc in my district, from Hoosick Falls to Petersburgh.
This is why during my very first meeting with the House speaker in her office, I identified addressing PFAS contamination as a top priority. It is also why I asked my friend, Michael Hickey, to join me as a guest at the State of the Union. Turning tragedy into heroism, Hickey was the first to discover the contaminant in Hoosick Falls’ drinking water after losing his father to cancer. In the same vein, I was proud to be a founding member of the bipartisan Congressional PFAS Task Force and to introduce H.R. 2577, the PFAS Right-to-Know Act, bipartisan legislation that would require PFAS chemicals to be listed on the Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxics Release Inventory. This serves as a much-needed inventory of PFAS contamination around the country. An amended version of my bill recently passed the House Energy & Commerce Committee, a major step in the right direction.
Once I was named a conferee to this year’s National Defense Authorization Act, the first thing I did was urge the inclusion of pre-treatment standards and that PFAS be designated a hazardous substance. Admittedly, as a new member, I was unclear about the exact role of a conferee, but at a base level, I expected to be included and for there to be accessibility and transparency with regard to the negotiation process. Quite to contrary, I was on the outside looking in, waiting for information to dribble out.
Unfortunately, leaders in both parties ultimately opted to hijack negotiations at the 11th hour behind closed doors and in disturbingly undemocratic fashion. In the end, just one of four major PFAS provisions was included in the final NDAA conference report — my TRI bill. Backroom deal-making derailed progress on the other critical provisions.
While the vote on the full NDAA lies ahead, in order to express my concerns as a conferee with this incredibly flawed process, I’ve decided to not sign the conference report.
Here’s where we are: progress, but other critical provisions left on the cutting room floor.
So what happened? Washington wheeling and dealing at the expense of our clean drinking water. Had this been an inclusive process — that allowed conferees to advocate for the priorities most important to them — we may have achieved an NDAA with more meaningful provisions that can prevent future pollution and kickstart the clean up in contaminated communities.
Some might say this is politics as usual. I say this is politics run amuck. There should be nothing usual about Congress approaching a matter of life and death for millions across the country as another opportunity for political horse-trading. I find the practice abhorrent. I’m not I enough to think that politics must be perfect or morally pure. I understand that Washington, D.C., is littered with human frailty and imperfections, chief among them the lust for power. But where do we draw the line? And why not at safe drinking water?
The time is long overdue to demand accountability and tangible enforcement provisions to keep our communities safe from these forever chemicals. I urge leadership on both sides of the aisle to come together and take on this issue with the urgency it demands.
Rep. Antonio Delgado, D-Rhinebeck, represents the 19th Congressional District.