• April 7, 2023

    CERCLA is the Wrong Approach: “EPA has all the authority the agency needs to accelerate cleanup.”

    Chuck Chaitovitz

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and our coalition of companies and trade associations support accelerating clean-up on PFAS pollution in the communities in which we operate. Reducing the potential for exposures that threaten human health and the environment is among our top priorities.

This aside, we have serious concerns regarding the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) proposed designation of PFOA and PFOS as hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). If the proposal is made final, such an unprecedented action will lead to significant and avoidable unintended consequences and costs for communities and companies.

Simply put, CERCLA is the wrong approach.

Existing Authorities

For these reasons, attached is our analysis of alternative authorities that EPA should consider utilizing under existing law to meet cleanup goals without the burdensome impacts from a CERCLA hazardous substance designation.  Examples include:

  • CERCLA authorities at existing sites.
  • Resource Conservation and Recovery Act corrective action authorities and Section 7003 omnibus authority at facilities.
  • Safe Drinking Water Act Section 1431 emergency powers.

Principles and Priorities

As a general matter, we also urge EPA to ensure such issues are addressed as follows:

  • Develop approaches based on the best science and actual risks. As PFAS have important properties such as retarding heat and water that improve the performance of a wide variety of products and technologies across the economy and have important social benefits, a one-size-fits-all, non-risk-based approach is not appropriate.
  • Evaluate as individual chemistries or subcategories, not as a class. All PFAS are not the same.
  • Expedite the review, approval, and permitting of cost-effective technologies to treat and destroy PFAS contamination, in consultation with states.
  • Use tailored enforcement to address specific issues rather than an overbroad hazardous substance designation under CERCLA.

We also draw your attention to recent expert modelling of the nonfederal cleanup costs report (linked here), the Chamber’s transmittal letter to OMB (linked here), and a corresponding short overview (linked here).

The business community will continue to urge EPA and leaders across the U.S. government to look carefully at the broad impacts of a CERCLA designation decision and utilize existing authorities to spur clean-up.