Michigan Reps. to Trump: Come to the Midwest and defend your PFAS policies

By: - September 24, 2019 11:28 am

Rep. Debbie Dingell talks about PFAS provisions in the defense bill, Sept. 24, 2019 | Robin Bravender

WASHINGTON — Michigan lawmakers want President Trump to travel to the Midwest to defend his opposition to legislative measures to crack down on PFAS contamination. 

The president has threatened to veto an annual defense spending bill over provisions included by lawmakers from Michigan and other states that aim to force the government to do more to study, regulate and clean up the ubiquitous and harmful chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS.

Rep. Dan Kildee talks about PFAS provisions in the defense bill, Sept. 24, 2019 | Robin Bravender

“I want him to go to the Midwest, and I want him to have to defend why he does not think this chemical needs to be cleaned up,” U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn) said Tuesday at a press conference outside the U.S. Capitol. She was joined by U.S. Reps. Dan Kildee (D-Flint) and Andy Levin (D-Bloomfield Twp.). 

Kildee, too, invited Trump “to go to the middle of America, side with chemical companies against the American people. If he’s willing to do that and stand on that record, let him do so. I don’t believe he will.” 

U.S. House and Senate lawmakers are working to hash out their differences on the National Defense Authorization Act, an annual spending bill that’s seen as must-pass. Michigan lawmakers said the bill represents the best hope for PFAS legislation to be enacted this Congress.  

The PFAS provisions have broad bipartisan backing, but Trump has threatened to veto the House bill, objecting in part to a provision that would phase out the use of PFAS in military firefighting foam. 

Trump threatens to veto defense spending bill with PFAS protections

Trump’s opposition shocked members of the Michigan delegation, who pushed to include the protections as residents of the state have grown increasingly concerned about the risks posed by the ubiquitous chemicals linked to cancer and other health problems. 

“I will be honest, I did not think that we’d be having a conversation about the president of the United States threatening to veto a bill because of PFAS,” U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Holly) told the Michigan Advance during an interview in her Capitol Hill office in July. 

Michigan lawmakers warned that the bill could lose support from them and other lawmakers if the PFAS provisions are removed.

Michigan lawmakers brace for ‘direct conflict’ with Trump on PFAS

“If there’s an expectation that these important provisions can be stripped out, and they can just have the votes that they had in the house for the NDAA, I think they’ve got another thing coming,” Kildee said Tuesday. 

A recent report found that Michigan has the most sites in the country known to be contaminated with PFAS, although experts say that’s likely because Michigan has done thorough testing whereas other states have not. 

“We know right now that we have a low building crisis all across our country, and the fact that our state was the canary in the coal mine — we feel an even greater responsibility to get out there and insist that the Defense Department start cleaning this stuff up right now,” Levin said. 

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Robin Bravender
Robin Bravender

Robin Bravender was the States Newsroom Washington Bureau Chief from January 2019 until June 2020. She coordinated the network’s national coverage and reported on states’ congressional delegations, federal agencies, the White House and the federal courts. Prior to that, Robin was an editor and reporter at E&E News, a reporter at Politico, and a freelance producer for Reuters TV.