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Administrator Wheeler Statement on Cancellation of Bipartisan PFAS Destruction Research Squashed by Obama EPA Leadership

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WASHINGTON (August 25, 2020) — Today, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler released the following statement in regard to the cancellation of the Municipal Waste Combustor Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) Emissions Characterization Study in Rahway, New Jersey.

“Former Obama Administration EPA leader Judith Enck’s unprofessionalism, personal ignorance, and dishonesty has single-handedly shut down the Rahway study setting back the agency’s research efforts on PFAS – an emerging chemical of concern and top priority of the Trump Administration. This is emblematic of the Obama Administration’s disregard for community-based environmental issues. Enck’s politicization of ongoing bipartisan research efforts with the State of New Jersey is a disservice to communities throughout the Garden State and the country as a whole. Due to Enck’s meritless claims, the study has been cancelled to the detriment of science, a better understanding PFAS, and the protection of public health and the environment.”


EPA career scientists advised that the research was safe and would have had no adverse impact or risk on the surrounding communities, something even Enck is quoted in the press acknowledging. Enck has a history of politicizing science surrounding PFAS and making baseless claims about these chemicals. The New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYDEC) explicitly expressed these concerns in a letter to Enck criticizing her Cohoes, N.Y. study and refuting her claims. In their letter, NYDEC wrote that her conclusions and underlying data were “deeply flawed and incomplete,” “You incorrectly presented these results,” and that her claim was “not substantiated by your results.”

The research that EPA planned to conduct was done so at the request of many states, expressed through interactions with the Environmental Council of State, Congress, environmental non-governmental organizations, and the public. The Municipal Waste Combustor PFAS Emissions Characterization Study would have benefitted states and communities across the nation by deepening our understanding of PFAS compounds and how well they are destroyed through incineration. EPA was coordinating with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and local government in Rahway, New Jersey.