House Committee Holds Second Hearing on PFAS Contamination and Need for Corporate Accountability

The U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Oversight and Reform held on September 10 a second hearing to examine the history of the science behind the health risks associated with PFAS, and what corporations knew and when they knew it.

In the hearing, “The Devil They Knew — PFAS Contamination and the Need for Corporate Accountability, Part II,” attorneys and representatives from corporations with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in their products fielded a range of questions from the subcommittee.

It marked the first time 3M Co., Chemours Co., and DuPont de Nemours Inc. testified before Congress on PFAS. The first hearing held on July 24 yielded no corporate representation other than Glen Evers, president of IS2 Consulting and a former research scientist at DuPont.

Throughout the hearing some members of the House committee grew frustrated with the manufacturers trying to deny the risks of PFAS chemicals and avoiding liability for cleanup.

When pressed by the committee on whether PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) and PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonate) should be considered “hazardous substances” through CERCLA Section 102, known as Superfund, only one manufacturer representative, Daryl Roberts of DuPont de Nemours, agreed.

Roberts also said DuPont de Nemours supports the finalizing of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2019, which, among other things, sets a timetable for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to establish a national drinking water standard for PFOA and PFOS.

In addition to PFOA and PFOS, Roberts said there are “22 other bio-persistent substances” that need examined.

Subcommittee on Environment Chairman Harley Rouda (D-California) said DuPont appeared to be shifting its liability for cleanup by its merger with Dow Chemical Inc. in 2015, which prompted the Chemours spinoff. As of late June, Chemours called DuPont’s clean-up estimates “spectacularly” off for the cleanup of chemical discharges into waterways near Cape Fear, North Carolina. DuPont estimated Chemours would have to pay $2 million, but Chemours later learned it is likely to be $200 million. In a statement, DuPont said the companies’ responsibilities were laid out in a 2015 spinoff agreement and requested the judge dismiss the case and send it to an arbitrator to decide.

Rouda also referenced a bill he introduced on May 8, H.R. 2570: PFAS User Fee Act of 2019. All three corporate representatives said they would be willing to discuss the bill with Rouda in the future. The bill would establish fees for the manufacture of PFAS. The amount of the fees would total $2 billion each year. A PFAS Treatment Trust Fund would be created from the fees collected to pay for ongoing water treatment costs associated with contamination from PFAS and other purposes.

The first panel of the hearing included testimony from Robert “Rob” A. Bilott, J.D., of Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP; Lori Swanson, former attorney general of Minnesota; and Matthew Hardin, Greene County, Virginia, Commonwealth attorney. Due to Bilott and Swanson’s litigation, DuPont and 3M’s knowledge of PFAS dangers has emerged.

Bilott, the keynote speaker for NGWA’s PFAS Management, Mitigation, and Remediation Conference in June, brought the very first PFAS environmental exposure case to the forefront in 1999.

Click here to watch the hearing.