12.17.19

After Senate Passes Final National Defense Bill With Peters’ PFAS Provisions, Legislation Heads to President’s Desk

Provisions Secured by Peters Phase Out Department of Defense’s Use of Firefighting Foams Containing PFAS; Increase Coordination Between Pentagon and States; Improve Understanding of PFAS Through Advanced Computer Modeling

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Senate today approved the final national defense bill that includes provisions U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) authored and cosponsored to address PFAS contamination in Michigan and across the country. The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which sets policy for the Department of Defense, has been enacted into law for more than 55 consecutive years. Now that the bill has been passed by the Senate and the House, it goes to the President to be signed into law. This year’s NDAA includes a number of provisions, including a 3.1 percent pay raise for servicemembers, an end to the Widow’s Tax — which will increase survivor’s benefits for families of deceased servicemembers — and bipartisan legislation Peters cosponsored to crack down on international manufacturers and traffickers of fentanyl.

“Michigan communities, families and our military are being harmed by PFAS contamination. Now that the Senate has passed provisions I authored to take steps to address exposure and help communities struggling with PFAS, I look forward to the President signing the national defense bill into law,” said Senator Peters, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “While this bill will allow us to make important progress, there is no question it does not go far enough and that more must be done. I will continue to push the Trump Administration to help clean up sites that have been contaminated and establish drinking water standards, and look for opportunities to address these issues in the Senate.”

A number of provisions that Peters led or supported passed the Senate including:

  • Stopping the Use of PFAS Chemicals in Firefighting Foams: The bill prevents the Department of Defense from buying firefighting foam that contains PFAS after October 1, 2023 and from using these foams after October 1, 2024. The Senate unanimously passed Peters’ resolution in September calling for the final defense bill to include similar  provision. This builds on Peters’ work in last year’s annual defense bill that is now law, which urged the Department of Defense to develop fluorine-free firefighting foams.
  • Preventing Use of PFAS-laden Firefighting Foams in Training Exercises: The bill directs the Secretary of Defense to prohibit the use of firefighting foams containing PFAS in military training exercises.
  • Increasing Coordination on PFAS Remediation Efforts, Data Between the Department of Defense and States: Peters secured a provision that would encourage the Department of Defense to finalize cooperative agreements with states and partner with Governors to address, test, monitor, remove, or remediate PFAS contamination originating from Department of Defense activities, including at decommissioned military installations and National Guard facilities. If a cooperative agreement is not reached within one year of the request from a state, the Secretary of Defense must report to Congress explaining why. This measure is similar to bipartisan legislation that Peters introduced with Senator Debbie Stabenow and other colleagues. The bill additionally requires the Department of Defense to share PFAS in water monitoring data with nearby municipalities.
  • Developing New Technologies to Detect PFAS, Adding PFAS to the EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory, Helping Farms Impacted by PFAS from Military Sites: The bill includes a provisions Peters supported that provides the US Geological Survey with more resources to develop new advanced technologies to detect PFAS and conduct nationwide sampling for PFAS in the environment—based on the bipartisan PFAS Detection Act that Peters reintroduced with Stabenow earlier this year; and adds PFAS to the EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory, affording better transparency on when and where PFAS chemicals are created, used and disposed of. The bill also authorizes the U.S. Air Force to compensate agricultural lands contaminated by PFAS near military installations.

As Ranking Member of the Senate’s top oversight committee, Peters has led Congressional efforts to address PFAS contamination in Michigan and across the country. Most recently, Peters’ bipartisan bill to help protect the health and safety of firefighters and emergency responders frequently exposed to PFAS advanced in the Senate. In April, Peters requested information from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) about ongoing federal efforts to address PFAS contamination as well as an evaluation of the financial cost of cleaning up contaminated sites around the country. Peters also introduced bipartisan legislation requiring the EPA to declare PFAS as hazardous substances eligible for cleanup funds under the EPA Superfund law.

Prior to that, Peters convened the first ever Senate hearing on PFAS to assess the federal role in contamination and clean-up, and additionally convened a field summit in Grand Rapids. Last year, Peters authored a provision that is now law to allow airports to transition away from using firefighting foams that contain PFAS. He also secured a provision that was enacted to encourage the Department of Defense to develop PFAS-free firefighting foams.

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