Pennsylvania’s PUC says EPA’s PFAS designation could raise water rates for consumers

22 April 2024- As the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) moves toward finalizing its proposal to designate Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) – also known as “forever chemicals” – as hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), members of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) have voiced concerns over the potential impacts on water and wastewater public utilities and the resulting financial burden on Pennsylvania water customers.

The PUC recognizes the critical role that regulated water and wastewater public utilities play in providing safe, affordable services to communities across the state. However, with the looming possibility of CERCLA liability for PFAS remediation, these utilities face significant financial challenges that may ultimately be passed on to consumers through increased rates.

In the absence of clear authority from Congress to exempt certain entities from CERCLA liability, water and wastewater customers may bear the brunt of remediation costs. This situation underscores the urgent need for legislative action to protect both utilities and consumers from undue financial strain.

“Communities across America rely on water systems run by America’s water and wastewater public utilities to provide safe drinking water, nourish our families, run our homes and businesses, protect our waterways and more,” noted the five PUC Commissioners in a letter to members of Pennsylvania’s Congressional delegation. “Water and wastewater public utilities have been at the forefront of protecting public health, safety, and the environment by investing to remove PFAS from our drinking water, even in the absence of state or federal requirements.”

The PUC is urging Congress to take decisive action to address potential CERCLA liability for water and wastewater public utilities. By doing so, lawmakers can ensure the continued provision of safe, reliable water services while protecting consumers from unjustified rate increases.

“We encourage Congress to support language that safeguards water and wastewater utilities and their consumers,” the PUC letter stated. “It is imperative that we prioritize public health and safety and mitigate the financial burdens facing Pennsylvania’s water customers.”

The PUC stands ready to work collaboratively with federal lawmakers and stakeholders to enact meaningful legislation that addresses this pressing issue.