The Bill Would Designate PFAS Chemicals as Hazardous Substances Under Environmental Protection Law
WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) today announced that they have introduced bipartisan legislation with a bipartisan group of Senators that would mandate the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) declare per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) as hazardous substances eligible for cleanup funds under the EPA Superfund law, and enable a requirement that polluters undertake or pay for remediation. The bill, the PFAS Action Plan of 2019, was introduced by a group of more than a dozen senators.
“I’ve listened to Michiganders across the state who are rightly concerned about their exposure to toxic PFAS chemicals and want action,” said Senator Peters, who serves as the Ranking Member on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “Researchers and scientists have underscored the serious risks of contamination to both human health and our environment. We need to address PFAS, which is why I am helping lead a bipartisan group of my colleagues in introducing legislation that will force the clean-up of contaminated communities in Michigan and around the nation.”
“Categorizing PFAS as hazardous will help accelerate the cleanup of contaminated areas and protect our communities in Michigan,” said Senator Stabenow. “This legislation also holds the EPA accountable for their previous commitments made in their PFAS Action Plan.”
In May 2018, former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced that the agency would consider designating PFOA and PFOS, two specific PFAS chemicals of the class of more than 5,000 PFAS chemicals, as “hazardous substances” through available statutory mechanisms, including existing law governing Superfund sites. Nearly a year later, on February 14, 2019, EPA released its long-anticipated PFAS Action Plan. The plan reiterated a non-enforceable commitment by EPA to initiate the process to designate PFOA and PFOS as hazardous substances under Superfund law but did not identify how long the designation process would take to complete.
Clear and swift action from Congress to list the full class of PFAS as hazardous substances under current Superfund laws would advance EPA’s commitment, compelling the agency to designate these substances and to protect human health and the environment in an expeditious manner. To see the full text of the bill, click HERE.
Peters has led a number of efforts in the Senate to address PFAS. Last year, Peters authored a provision that is now law to enable airports to transition away from using firefighting foams that contain PFAS. Previously, airports were required by law to use these foams based off an outdated specification. He also secured a provision that was enacted to encourage the Department of Defense to develop firefighting foams free of PFAS. In addition, Peters helped convene the first Senate hearing on PFAS to assess the federal role on contamination and clean-up and convened a Senate field summit in Grand Rapids to hear from affected Michiganders and highlight how federal actions can support local efforts.
Recently, Peters requested the Air Force work with the State of Michigan to remediate PFAS contamination surrounding the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Iosco County. The Air Force assured the Senator it will continue working with the state and confirmed that Assistant Secretary Henderson is scheduling a trip to Michigan, following Peters’ request. He also criticized the EPA’s Action Plan announced on February 14 that failed to establish enforceable drinking water standards or offer finalized groundwater clean-up standards. It did, however, make clear that the agency and Administration will continue to delay action for as long as possible.
Senator Stabenow championed bipartisan legislation to improve the monitoring and testing of PFAS, hold federal agencies accountable for addressing contamination and require the VA to cover treatment related to PFAS exposure. As Ranking Member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Stabenow co-authored the 2018 Farm Bill, which provided investments to strengthen rural water infrastructure and increased funding for the USDA's Emergency Community Water Assistance Grants program to $50 million a year. She has also secured over $1 billion funding in the 2018 Federal Budget Bill for the USDA's rural water and wastewater infrastructure program.