As previously reported, the Biden administrative is expected to make PFAS regulation and enforcement a priority by, among other things: designating PFAS as hazardous substances, setting enforceable limits under the Safe Drinking Water Act, prioritizing substitutes through procurement policies, and accelerating toxicity studies and research. Plan to Secure Environmental Justice and Economic Opportunity.
On February 3, 2021, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works held a public hearing on the nomination of Michael S. Regan to be Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Since 2017, Regan has led the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality as Secretary. In that role, Secretary Regan has been credited with leading the state’s negotiations with Chemours over its Fayetteville plant and PFAS impacts to the Cape Fear River. See Consent Order documents.
PFAS questions came early in the nomination hearing from Democratic Senator Kristen Gillibrand of New York and Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, two other states where PFAS issues have been major focuses of investigation, enforcement and regulation.
Regan’s responses at the hearing confirmed that he is on board with Biden’s stated approach:
Senator Gillibrand: So my first question is this. Will you make PFAS an agency-wide priority at the EPA, so that more time is not wasted while families continue to be exposed and harmed by these very toxic chemicals?
Mr. Regan. Thank you for that question, Senator Gillibrand. You and I and Senator Capito know all too well the devastating impacts to our States by the lack of action on behalf of the EPA. PFAS, PFOA, perfluorinated compounds, will be a top priority for this Administration. We will pursue discharge limits. We will pursue water quality values. We will pursue all avenues that we can while we are developing these rulemaking processes, to give the proper signals to States, so that States can take the appropriate actions, like we have had to take in North Carolina.
Senator Gillibrand. Will that include setting a drinking water standard for PFAS?
Mr. Regan. Thank you for the question, Senator. What I plan to do is sit down and spend some time with the staff at EPA, with our counsel; to understand the multiple avenues I believe we have at our fingertips to address PFAS.
. . .
Senator Gillibrand. . . . Given your experience at the State level, what is your vision on how EPA should approach industrial PFAS solutions in order to prevent more PFAS from entering the environment in the first place?
Mr. Regan. Thank you for that question. I think there is a lot of wisdom in the vision and the direction that you are headed in order to have a full accounting of how these forever chemicals are entering into our water, as well as our air. So I think we need to take a look at the discharge of PFAS from a water quality standpoint. I think we need to take a very strong look at the emissions that are coming from the combustion and incineration of products that yield PFAS into our atmosphere. I can commit to you that on day one, that this is and will be a priority for this Administration to set limits on how much of this chemical compound is entering into our air and our water.
Senator Capito. … Senator Gillibrand mentioned PFAS. You and I talked about this on the phone. . . . But I am like-minded with her in terms of the restlessness of getting there and the delay. So I would impress upon you how important I think that is to our Nation and to our Nation’s [youth], as they are living through the impacts of what this could have on drinking water. So I would just ask a pledge to keep working with me and us on that.
Mr. Regan. Absolutely.
On February 9, 2021, in its first 2021 hearing led by Democratic Senator Tom Carper of Delaware, the Committee voted 14-6 to send Regan’s nomination to the full Senate for a confirmation vote.