Wide-ranging PFAS Legislation Passes Senate Committee

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved bipartisan “PFAS Release Disclosure and Protection Act”
June 19, 2019

Bipartisan legislation that will regulate the use of a group of potentially deadly manmade chemicals known as PFAS has passed a major hurdle and now awaits action by the full Senate.

The U.S. Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works approved the “PFAS Release Disclosure and Protection Act,” a bill that would force industrial manufacturers to disclose PFAS releases, and force the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to set a national drinking water regulation for PFAS within two years. The legislation would also add about 200 PFAS chemicals to the EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory list.

PFAS chemicals have been used in flame and waterproof consumer and industrial products since the 1940s. The U.S. military began using PFAS compounds for an effective firefighting foam in the 1970s.

Low levels of the chemical have been detected in the drinking water on two Indiana military installations: the former Grissom Air Base near Kokomo and Naval Support Activity Crane. The U.S. Navy is currently investigating whether PFAS contamination may have spread beyond base limits.

“This pollution is an urgent concern for many communities and states across the country,” said Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., committee chairman. “Our bipartisan package will go a long way to helping the federal government and the states combat this pollution.”

The bill’s sponsors hope to attach the bill to this year’s National Defense Authorization Act, the yearly bill that determines the agencies responsible for defense, how much funding they will receive and sets the policies under which the money will be spent.

The bill is a compromise between several PFAS action bills. One of the bill’s co-sponsors says the legislation lets the military off the hook for problems it caused.

“There is one critical piece of PFAS legislation missing from this package, and that’s the bill I introduced with Sen. (Shelley Moore) Capito and 30 co-sponsors this spring that designates PFAS as hazardous substances under the Superfund law,” said Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., ranking member of the committee. “This designation would require DoD to clean up the PFAS contamination that it’s caused. It would unlock EPA resources to clean up sites when no one else can do so.”

The Indiana Environmental Reporter reached out to Sen. Mike Braun, a member of the Environment and Public Works committee, to find out whether he would support the legislation. The senator’s office has not responded to the query.

Wide-ranging PFAS Legislation Passes Senate Committee