Pentagon Panics Over Biden Plan That Could Cost Taxpayers $10,000 Per Household

(Shridhar Vashistha for Unsplash)

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is advancing on a significant overhaul of drinking water standards, specifically targeting reductions in the allowable levels of polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). These substances, known for their resistance to environmental and biological degradation, are under scrutiny due to potential health concerns.

The World Health Organization (WHO) advocates for capping PFAS, also referred to as “forever plastics,” at 100 parts per trillion (ppt), aligning with the European Commission’s standard. Comparatively, Japan adopted a provisional limit of 50 ppt, and Sweden restricts most PFAS to approximately 90 ppt on average. Canada and Denmark are in the process of implementing more restrictive measures.

The EPA proposes to establish a rigorous limit of 4 ppt for two main variations of PFAS—PFOA and PFOS—in all drinking water. This would mark a significant reduction from the previous advisory limit of 70 ppt, instituted during the Obama administration, and far below the WHO’s recommendation. This updated standard would position the U.S. as one of the most stringent regulators of PFAS globally.

Estimations by a Black & Veatch report, solicited by the American Water Works Association (AWWA), indicate that meeting the EPA’s proposed regulations could lead to an increase in water costs for households, ranging from $80 to $11,150 annually. This contrasts with the EPA’s own projection that suggests an additional $1 billion annually for water utilities. AWWA argues the actual costs could ascend to $3.8 billion each year.

The Pentagon has expressed serious concerns over the implications of tight PFAS regulation, emphasizing the potential repercussions for national security. PFAS compounds are essential in numerous military applications, including information technology and various types of equipment crucial for the military’s operational capacity. Dwindling PFAS accessibility due to stringent regulations would significantly hinder the Department of Defense’s (DoD) abilities.

Contamination mitigation is also a growing issue; the DoD estimates it would need approximately $39 billion to address PFAS contamination beyond what was recommended during the Obama administration. Almost 3,000 private wells close to military bases are suspected of being contaminated, showcasing PFAS concentrations dramatically above the prospective EPA standard.

For context, the current EPA standards permit up to 10 parts per billion (ppb) of arsenic and 200 ppb of cyanide in water, underscoring the severity of the proposed PFAS limits by comparison. The inclusion of such strict PFAS regulations demands substantial public expenditure to control plastic prevalence to a small fraction of concentrations allowed for harmful substances.

The proposed standard is in the final review stage at the White House Office of Regulatory Affairs. If approved before the Congressional Review Act deadline on May 22, the rule could become law, potentially ushering in a new era of dramatically heightened regulation without direct input from Congress.

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