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Peters Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Bolster Cooperation Between Federal and Local Governments to Protect Communities from Hazardous PFAS Chemicals

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI), Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, introduced bipartisan legislation to improve coordination between federal and local governments to protect Michiganders from exposure to toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). PFAS are man-made chemicals that are widely used in industry and consumer products, and can lead to serious health effects. Peters’ bill would create a working group within the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to improve intergovernmental coordination to address contamination of these harmful substances.

“The federal government must do a better job of coordinating with states, Tribes, and local communities when they are working to clean up harmful PFAS chemicals that continue to affect the health and safety of servicemembers, first responders, and entire communities in Michigan and across the nation, “ said Senator Peters. “This bipartisan bill will help improve communication and coordination efforts across every level of government to ensure there is a more comprehensive approach to cleaning up existing sites and preventing future contamination.”

Michigan has the highest number of PFAS contaminated sites in the nation – largely because the state is at the forefront of testing and identifying these locations. More than 2 million Michiganders have been exposed to PFAS contamination in their drinking water and PFAS have been found in every Great Lake. Exposure to these chemicals can cause detrimental health effects, including an increased risk of cancer, damage to the immune system, decreased fertility, birth defects, liver disease, and thyroid disease.

The PFAS Intergovernmental Coordination Act would establish an intergovernmental working group at OMB made up of representatives from federal agencies; state, local, and Tribal governments; and academic research institutions to improve responses to current PFAS contamination. The group would meet quarterly for two years and would be tasked with providing a report to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and the House Committee on Oversight and Reform that outlines their recommendations and methodologies to improve responses to current PFAS contamination efforts and mitigate future contamination efforts.

The legislation builds on Peters’ longstanding efforts to address PFAS contamination. Last month, he convened a field hearing in East Lansing with senior federal officials and local stakeholders to examine efforts to clean up PFAS contamination in Michigan. His bill to protect firefighters from hazardous PFAS chemicals has passed the Senate. Peters recently introduced bipartisan legislation to strengthen and expand federal research on PFAS contamination. His bipartisan legislation to reduce the spread of PFAS chemicals at commercial airports has passed the Senate. Last year, Peters convened a hearing to examine how servicemembers, their families and communities in Michigan and across the country have been harmed by exposure to toxic PFAS substances connected to military sites. In September 2018, Peters helped convene the first hearing on PFAS contamination in the Senate, assessing the federal response to contamination and remediation. He then convened a field summit in Grand Rapids in November 2018 to shine a light on how the local, state and federal governments are coordinating their response to PFAS.

Below are statements in support of Peters’ bipartisan legislation:

“I support the goals of the Federal PFAS Intergovernmental Coordination Act and am grateful for Sen. Peters’ leadership on the important issue of PFAS coordination and collaboration,” said Abigail Hendershott, Executive Director of the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team. “The proposed legislation will help to establish a much-needed national work group to develop a collaborative strategic approach to the complexities of PFAS issues in our country.   This model of interagency collaboration on PFAS has been successful here in Michigan and I believe it will lead to better and more uniform federal policies at a national level.”

“The PFAS Intergovernmental Coordination Act will increase accountability and break down governmental silos in the fight to tackle PFAS contamination, a major threat to people and wildlife in the Great Lakes region,” said Jennifer Hill, Associate Director of the Great Lakes Regional Center of National Wildlife Federation. “Bringing local and tribal governments to decision making tables is a crucial step to ensure impacted communities are a part of clean up decisions happening in their backyards.” 

“As the PFAS crisis widens, we need federal agencies to come together with state, local, and tribal governments as well as the scientific community to come together to protect people and communities across America,” said Tony Spaniola, Co-Chair of the Great Lakes PFAS Action Network and founding member of Need Our Water (NOW), a PFAS community action group in Oscoda, Michigan. “Senator Peters’ legislation will spur the types innovative and collaborative action that are vitally important to tackle this critical challenge.”

“Rockford, Oscoda, the Huron River—time and again, Michiganders have been exposed to PFAS and fought it head on,” said Charlotte Jameson, Michigan Environmental Council chief policy officer. “We've made so much progress, but so much more could be made with top-notch federal policies. Sen. Peters' bill would pair local experts across our peninsulas with national leaders, allowing us, together, to protect people from PFAS in the best ways possible.”

“Decision makers at all levels need to be prepared to prevent and respond to the toxic PFAS contamination crisis in Michigan and across the country,” said Bentley Johnson, federal government affairs director for the Michigan League of Conservation Voters. “That is why we are so encouraged to see Senator Peters introduce much-needed bipartisan legislation to improve interagency coordination of our federal government’s response to PFAS. Congress should advance this legislation as they continue to find ways to improve polluter accountability, cleanup oversight, and real engagement with impacted communities.”