Inhofe interviews witness about cleaning up PFAS contaminated materials
This week, U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), a senior member of the Environment and Public Works (EPW) committee, questioned Ms. Brenda Mallory, Chair of the Environmental Quality Council, on the delay of the Biden administration in the elimination. materials contaminated with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) by the Department of Defense.
Inhofe: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And it’s good to see you again as I mentioned to you before.
President Mallory, I have two requests and they are not related to each other, they are separate. Let me start with the first. Just so there’s no misunderstanding, just what I’m asking, I’m actually going to read it, so I have a record of what I’m saying, okay? The DOD is legally responsible for cleaning up the PFAS contamination they have caused. In order to clean up the contamination they must dispose of – the best way to do this is by incineration. The DOD is willing to incinerate the PFAS waste, but someone in the administration has told them not to.
The two questions I would have to ask are, one, who tells them they can’t post their cremation guidelines? And the second thing is, if they can’t incinerate, how do you suggest they dispose of PFAS contaminated materials? You are from the right area to answer these questions, I believe. What would your answer be?
Malory: OK. Thank you, senator, for that question. PFAS is obviously a very important issue that the administration spends a lot of time on, and specifically in my office I chair an interagency policy council that focuses on coordinating PFAS activities that are happening across government.
From the campaign to the time the president issued the first executive orders, the PFAS and the need to address it has been a priority for them. One of the things I’m trying to do under the inter-agency policy form is to make sure the agencies are working together as they identify what actions and tools are needed to make sure we meet the challenge of PFAS.
I mean, we’re in a place with PFAS where the science is still evolving, the standards still need to be put in place. There are a variety of technical things that need to happen. Meanwhile, there are families and individuals who are hurt every day. And so, it’s important to try to ensure that we are able to act in a way that allows agencies to address issues and resolve them in a way that addresses the health concerns of the community. .
Incineration is a problem. I know the EPA and the guidance they put out – I believe it was last year – said incineration was one of the things where it was an approach, but it’s an approach to which we have to be very careful because of the air quality impacts associated with it. And so, I know we’re talking to DOD about the studies that they have going on and we’re getting some additional information about working in incineration and PFAS and that’s part of an ongoing discussion.
Inhofe: Now, I understand that New York has crossed that bridge before. They made a statement as to all the dangers associated with this. And so this study has been going on, I guess, for quite some time. And so, I just want to know when this is going to be resolved.
Right now, if you leave it as it’s laid out here, and it’s something you don’t like initially, and so it’s going to take you a while – I guess, how long How long is it going to take to be able to clean this up?
Malory: Well, first of all, senator, I think we are making a real effort to try to get the agencies to work together on this issue. I think that-
Inhofe: But your agency is an agency that has a responsibility to solve this problem.
Malory: And what I’m saying is we’re gathering the information that will make this possible. The New York study that you referred to, I think there are other studies that we are unable to make available at this point, that the DOD has done. And we want to see what those studies look like, which I think will be this summer.
Inhofe: So if that’s the only study that’s been done – is that the only study that’s been made public?
Malory: I don’t know the answer to this question, but I’ll be happy to answer you about it.
Inhofe: Well, there’s not much time to come back, because we have to do something about it now. Nothing is done and I came to this meeting because it is obvious that the White House is stopping this or delaying it. Is it stopped or delayed? Can you let me know the status of it?
Malory: What I can say about that, senator, is that we are having conversations with DOD about those guidelines. I didn’t see us as stopping it or even delaying it, but we are having conversations with them about what their plan is and what is needed to fix this.
Inhofe: But don’t you prevent them from doing the housework?
Malory: What I’ve asked the DOD to do is put the information together so we can have a briefing for everyone on what their plan is. I didn’t stop them from doing anything.
Inhofe: Very well then. When will that – would give me a time frame for that? This is an inconvenience issue, I understand, for the DOD. We have things that we need to do, and we need to use this technology that has been acceptable, and we just want to know where we are today, how long it will take to accomplish the different things you’re trying to determine, and where we’ll be with that.
Malory: Well, thank you senator, for the question. I will definitely get back to you with what the status is. I will say that the DOD was actually hosting – and I think we were helping to host – a meeting. I don’t know if it’s still planned.
Inhofe: Very well. I know my time is up – I have another question I want to talk about, so let me wrap it up very quickly here. You have nothing here today, you can let me know when we can clean up this mess.
Malory: No Senator, I will definitely get back to you on this. It may be today, but it won’t be while I’m sitting here.
Inhofe: Alright, you clarified that. How long do you think it will be? Give me a deadline.
Malory: Well, I promise you we’ll get back to you, certainly by the end of the week we’re on the matter.
Inhofe: Okay that’s good. Now, my other problem, I will address it in the second round.
Carper: And I would just ask you to keep the majority and minority teams informed of your response to Senator Inhofe and his team on this matter.