NEWS WORTH NOTING: AG Becerra blasts EPA for failure to address dangerous chemicals in groundwater; Metropolitan helps California prepare for climate change; GAO report: Climate change: Opportunities to reduce federal fiscal exposure

Attorney General Becerra Blasts EPA for its Failure to Address Dangerous Chemicals in Groundwater

From the Office of the Attorney General:

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, with Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser and Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, filed a comment letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on its proposed guidance that fails to ensure clean up of harmful per- and polyflouroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination in groundwater.

EPA’s guidance demonstrates its failure to protect human health and the environment. PFAS are a group of thousands of chemicals, including perfluorooctnoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), widely used on consumer products such as nonstick cookware, water- and wrinkle- resistant clothing, and food packaging, as well as in firefighting foam. The PFAS chemicals do not break down in the environment and as a result, these “forever chemicals” accumulate in human bodies. PFAS has been shown to cause adverse health effects including developmental defects, kidney cancer, liver damage, and impacts on the thyroid and immune system.

Groundwater data monitoring has shown PFAS contamination at 641 sites in 43 states. Despite the major health impacts and widespread contamination, the federal government has taken limited action to address this problem. The comment letter responds to a draft guidance by EPA which minimizes the risks of PFAS and proposes inadequately low screening and cleanup levels for the serious PFAS contamination affecting groundwater throughout the United States.

The Attorneys General call on the agency to take adequate steps to address the dangers of PFAS, and adopt clean up levels that are protective of public health and the environment.

“Millions of products are tainted with dangerous PFAS chemicals, which end up in the water we drink and the food we eat,” said Attorney General Becerra. “With this inadequate guidance, the EPA is attempting to wash its hands of its responsibility to protect our communities from dangerous chemicals in our water. We demand the EPA address this sleeping giant before it’s too late.”

In the comment letter, the Attorneys General assert that EPA’s proposed guidance fails to take appropriate action against the widespread risk from PFAS. The EPA’s guidance proposes a screening level of 40 parts per trillion and a preliminary remediation goal of 70 parts per trillion for PFOS and PFOA. In addition to not setting standards for the entire PFAS group, the guidance sets levels that are far less stringent than what is recommended by experts for PFOS and PFOA, based on the current scientific knowledge. The levels are also above state-established standards for PFOS and PFOA, including drinking water notification levels established in California.

The failure to impose more stringent levels will undermine the states’ efforts to ensure that groundwater is cleaned up adequately. The guidance is also inadequate to address the problem of PFAS contamination because EPA, despite the widely known public health risks, has not designated any PFAS chemicals as hazardous substances under federal statutes that require polluters to clean up PFAS contamination and/or pay for the costs of cleanup incurred by states.

A copy of the letter can be found here.

Metropolitan helps California prepare for climate change

Agency joins California Resilience Challenge, statewide adaptation initiative

From the Metropolitan Water District:

A new initiative to help California confront the challenges of climate change received a big boost today from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.  Metropolitan’s Board of Directors voted unanimously to become a leader and board member of the California Resilience Challenge, a statewide effort to build local resilience to the droughts, floods, wildfires and sea-level rise that climate change will bring to California. As part of its commitment, Metropolitan will contribute $200,000 to the initiative, which will use the funding to provide grants to community-level climate change adaptation projects.

“We’re already living in a changed climate. Our policy decisions, investments and priorities need to reflect that,” Metropolitan board Chairwoman Gloria Gray said.  California has become a global leader in the effort to cut carbon emissions and reduce the extent of future climate change. But new approaches and investments are needed to plan and
adapt to the impacts of climate change that are already unavoidable. The California Resilience Challenge has an initial goal of raising $3 million, and ultimately $10 million, to support such planning.

Metropolitan joins a growing partnership of public, private and non-profit organizations supporting the initiative, including Climate Resolve, Santa Clara Valley Water District, Environmental Defense Fund, The Nature Conservancy, Pacific Gas and Electric and Pillsbury law firm. The initiative is administered by the Bay Area Council.

“Climate change doesn’t just threaten Northern California or Southern California, coastal California or the state’s inland communities. It threatens cities, farms and ecosystems up and down the state. The threats may vary from community to community, but everyone is at risk,” said Jim Wunderman, president and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “We have to work together and learn from one another to prepare for and recover from these threats.”

“One of the most profound impacts of climate change will be to our water supply,” Wunderman continued. “Few agencies understand that as well as Metropolitan. So we are thrilled to have the district bring its expertise and leadership to the California Resilience Challenge.”

Over the past decade, California has experienced the driest four-year period in state history, followed a year later by the wettest water year in history. In addition to the increasing extremes in droughts and flooding, the California Department of Water Resources predicts that Sierra snowpack – a valuable source of water storage for the state – will decline by up to 65 percent by the end of the century.

“The good news is, Metropolitan has been planning for this new reality for more than a decade, taking steps to ensure the region’s water supply remains reliable under these extreme and changing conditions,” Metropolitan General Manager Jeffrey Kightlinger said. “We are eager to identify adaptation strategies that can benefit the entire water sector.”

The California Resilience Challenge will award grants for up to 10 climate change adaptation projects, reflecting the state’s diverse geography and challenges. The winning projects will be innovative, locally supported and replicable across the state and globe. As a board member, Metropolitan will help determine which projects should receive funding, ensuring the needs of the water community and Southern California are represented.

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is a state-established cooperative that delivers water to 26 member agencies serving 19 million people in six counties. The district imports water from the Colorado River and Northern California to supplement local supplies, and helps develop increased water conservation, recycling, storage and other resource-management programs.

GAO Report: Climate Change: Opportunities to Reduce Federal Fiscal Exposure

From the Government Accountability Office:

There were 14 separate billion-dollar weather and climate disaster events in the U.S. in 2018—with a total cost of at least $91 billion. These costs will likely rise as the climate changes, researchers say. The federal government’s fiscal exposure from climate change is on our High Risk List.

We testified about potential budget impacts from climate change and how the government can reduce fiscal exposure, among other things. Climate change could damage federal property and increase the cost of disaster aid and some property and crop insurance. One way to reduce fiscal exposure is to establish federal strategic climate change priorities.

Click here to view highlights and download the report.

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About News Worth Noting:  News Worth Noting is a collection of press releases, media statements, and other materials produced by federal, state, and local government agencies, water agencies, and academic institutions, as well as non-profit and advocacy organizations.  News Worth Noting also includes relevant legislator statements and environmental policy and legal analyses that are publicly released by law firms.  If your agency or organization has an item you would like included here, please email it to Maven.

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