Peters’ Bipartisan Bill Would Help Advance Our Understanding of PFAS Chemicals; Provide Recommendations and Better Inform Decisions on How to Effectively Address PFAS Contamination
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) reintroduced bipartisan legislation to help advance the federal government’s understanding of toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and better inform plans to effectively address PFAS contamination – which continues to impact communities in Michigan and across the country.
PFAS chemicals have been detected in our air, water, food, and soil, and can lead to serious health effects including cancer, low infant birthweight, liver and kidney issues, and reproductive and developmental problems. However, much remains unknown about these harmful substances, including their specific levels of toxicity, impacts on human and environmental health, pathways to exposure, and effective methods of removal, treatment, and destruction.
Such information is necessary to inform regulatory action and implement successful cleanup efforts, but current federal research efforts are fragmented and have struggled to address the full scope of the threats posed by PFAS chemicals. Peters’ Federal PFAS Research Evaluation Act – which he reintroduced with U.S. Senators Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) – would require that federal agencies with expertise related to PFAS work with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine on a consensus study that would help inform decisions by the federal government, state government, key stakeholders and partners on how to best address PFAS contamination.
“Without being properly addressed, PFAS chemicals will continue to threaten the health and safety of communities in Michigan and across the country,” said Senator Peters. “This bipartisan legislation would enable us to have more comprehensive federal research to better inform mitigation efforts and help protect families, first responders, our environment, and the Great Lakes.”
“This legislation is a meaningful step forward to better understand how these chemicals harm our communities,” said Senator Moran. “This bipartisan effort will bolster our nation’s research into effective ways to counter dangerous toxins. By utilizing expertise and resources collected from several agencies, we can make ourselves and our families safer.”
“PFAS contamination is a serious concern that far too many Granite State families live with – from exposure in drinking water supplies to exposure in first responders’ protective gear. These pervasive chemicals have found their way into our water, soil and products and that demands a comprehensive strategy, including robust resources for research, so we understand the full scope of human health implications,” said Senator Shaheen. “I’m helping to lead this bipartisan legislation to enhance federal research on PFAS chemicals to better inform our policies aimed at preventing contamination, remediating polluted sites and educating health providers and communities about potential health risks. I’ve long fought for policies to address the pervasive problem of PFAS contamination and will keep fighting to deliver the tools our communities need to stay safe and to provide the overdue answers affected Americans deserve.”
“I support the goals of the Federal PFAS Research Evaluation Act, and am grateful for Sen. Peters’ leadership on the important issue of PFAS research,” said Abigail Hendershott, Executive Director of the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team. “The proposed legislation could build on the existing work of several federal agencies, strengthen interagency collaboration, and advance scientific knowledge about this class of contaminants. This model of interagency collaboration on PFAS has been successful here in Michigan and I believe it could lead to better and more uniform policies at a national level.”
“Toxic PFAS exposure is a health crisis in Michigan and around the country, and scientific research is an essential piece to understanding both the impacts of PFAS and solutions to clean up contamination and prevent further harm,” said Bentley Johnson, Federal Government Affairs Director for the Michigan League of Conservation Voters. “This legislation from Senator Peters and his colleagues will make sure that actions to address PFAS will be designed smart from the start, and protect the health of Michigan communities.”
“Tackling the PFAS crisis in the Great Lakes region requires all hands on deck, and the legislation introduced by Senator Peters will bring us closer to a more comprehensive understanding of how PFAS contamination impacts people, wildlife, and our quality of life,” said Marc Smith, Policy Director of the Great Lakes Regional Center of National Wildlife Federation. “Senator Peters clearly understands we have to expand sound science and monitoring if we’re going to protect people and wildlife and in the Great Lakes region from these toxic forever chemicals.”
“This legislation is an important step in establishing a coordinated federal approach to the PFAS crisis,” said Tony Spaniola of Need Our Water (NOW), a PFAS community action group in Oscoda, Michigan. “We applaud Senator Peters for his leadership on this issue and for his continuing, tireless efforts to assist impacted communities and military families across Michigan and the nation.”
Peters’ bipartisan legislation would direct the Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF), in coordination with the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Secretary of Defense, Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and heads of other federal agencies with expertise on PFAS substances to enter into an agreement with the National Academies to study and report on a federal research agenda that would advance the understanding of PFAS substances. The bill would result in four nonpartisan, consensus reports identifying the research needed to understand human exposure and toxicity estimations of PFAS, and identify management and treatment options for PFAS contamination.
These actions build on Peters’ long-running efforts to address PFAS contamination. In September 2018, Peters helped convene the first-ever hearing on PFAS contamination in the Senate, which assessed the federal government’s response to PFAS contamination and remediation efforts. He then convened a field summit in Grand Rapids in November 2018 to shine a light on how local, state and federal governments are coordinating responses to address PFAS contamination. Peters additionally convened a hearing as Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee to examine how servicemembers, their families and communities across the country have been harmed by exposure to toxic PFAS substances connected to military sites. During the hearing, he raised the need to hold the Department of Defense (DoD) accountable for their failure to act. He also previously supported and led provisions in the national defense bill to prohibit DoD from purchasing or using firefighting foams containing PFAS chemicals for military training exercises, and enhanced state cooperation DoD to clean-up PFAS contamination stemming from military-related activities.
Peters additionally introduced and advanced bipartisan legislation to reduce the spread of PFAS chemicals at commercial airports. The Preventing PFAS Runoff at Airports Act – which will deploy more existing Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) funding for commercial airports to purchase devices necessary to test their firefighting equipment without discharging toxic PFAS chemicals – was signed into law last year. In 2022, Peters’ bill to help protect firefighters and emergency responders from PFAS exposure in the line of duty was also signed into law.
In the government funding bill recently signed into law, Peters pushed for continued efforts to address PFAS contamination. The law included $5 million for the Department of Agriculture to support efforts to address PFAS contamination in agriculture. It also included $2.7 million for the U.S. Geological Service to conduct research on the transmission of PFAS substances in watersheds and aquifers, and $2 million for the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences to continue their work on PFAS and other contaminants of concern. Peters also helped secure funding for two local public projects in Oscoda Township and Marquette County that will help communities remediate and address longstanding issues with PFAS contamination. Most recently, Peters helped welcome $37 million in federal grants to address PFAS in drinking water made possible by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law he helped enact.