In a letter to Sen. Tom Carper, Environmental Protection Agency Assistant Administrator David Ross made a commitment that EPA will set an enforceable drinking water standard for two per- and polyfluorinated chemicals, commonly knowns as PFAS chemicals.

Studies show that these chemicals can cause reproductive, developmental and immunological effects in humans, as well as increase the risk of cancer.

In the PFAS Action Plan announced Feb. 14, EPA announced it would determine whether or not to set a drinking water standard by the end of 2019, simply repeating and extending the deadline for a commitment that had already been made by then-EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt in May 2018. In his letter to Carper, Ross made clear EPA intends to establish a drinking water standard for PFOA and PFOS.

“This is long-awaited but welcome news by EPA. Again and again, I’ve asked acting Administrator Wheeler to make a clear and firm commitment that EPA will set a drinking water standard, and it’s about time he showed some urgency on this important issue. I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure that EPA lives up to its commitment. I will also keep working to push EPA to accelerate the rest of the measures included in the PFAS Action Plan to add urgency to the other steps that must be taken to address the widespread contamination of all harmful PFAS chemicals,” said Carper.

Over the course of the nomination process for Wheeler, the president’s nominee to serve in that position permanently, Carper has called for a delay on the acting administrator’s confirmation until Wheeler embraces five bipartisan policies, including a commitment to set a drinking water standard for PFOA and PFOS. During his nomination hearing, Wheeler’s failure to make that commitment in response to Carper was soon followed by press reports that EPA had decided not to set a drinking water standard for PFAS.

Following the press reports, Carper joined a bipartisan group of senators led by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-New Hampshire, and Shelley Moore Capito, R-West Virginia, in sending a letter to Wheeler asking EPA to reverse itself and develop enforceable drinking water standards for PFOA and PFOS. Ross’ commitment comes in response to that letter.

“I ask my Republican colleagues to believe me when I say that I’m not interested in slowing down Mr. Wheeler’s nomination process for the sake of making a political statement or sticking it to the administration. I’m not interested in a delay for delay’s sake. With Mr. Wheeler’s nomination, we have a rare opportunity to extract meaningful policy concessions from EPA. This new commitment is proof of that winning strategy,” said Carper.

As Wheeler’s nomination heads to the Senate floor for a cloture vote, Carper will continue to urge EPA to reverse course and seize four additional bipartisan “win-win” policy opportunities, including withdrawing its proposal to gut the Mercury and Air Toxics rule, supporting Senate ratification of the Kigali amendment, striking a deal between automakers and the state of California on fuel economy and greenhouse gas tailpipe standards and finalizing a ban on methylene chloride that also protects workers from exposures to the deadly chemical.

For the PDF of Ross’ letter, visit bit.ly/2IBZOXx.