Bipartisan Group of Senators Introduce PFAS Action Act of 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Senators Tom Carper (D-Del.), top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) introduced legislation that would mandate the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) within one year of enactment declare per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) as hazardous substances eligible for cleanup funds under the EPA Superfund law, and also enable a requirement that polluters undertake or pay for remediation.

Representative Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) led the introduction of companion legislation in the House of Representatives earlier this Congress.

“In the recently released PFAS Action Plan, EPA restated its promise to declare PFAS as hazardous substances, but did not indicate how long it would take to fulfill that promise,” said Senator Carper. “This is an issue that must be addressed with urgency—and that’s why this bill is so important. Designating these chemicals has hazardous substances will, at a minimum, start the process to ensuring contaminated sites across the country are cleaned up, and Americans are safer from the threat posed by these emerging contaminants. This is not the only measure needed to address the broader contamination problems, but it’s a start, and I’m proud this legislation has strong bipartisan support.”

“As we’ve learned, certain types of PFAS pollution can have serious consequences when it comes to the environment and to public health and safety. That’s something we need to address,” said Senator Capito, chair of the EPW Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee. “Our bill will help provide resources for PFAS pollution cleanup and will make it possible to hold those responsible for it accountable. I’m proud to lead this bipartisan legislation with Senator Carper and will continue working with my colleagues, EPA, and others to resolve the issue more broadly.”

“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. “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.”

“North Carolina has had a long and tragic history with toxic water contamination, and many North Carolina families are rightfully concerned about PFAS and GenX. I’m committed to protecting North Carolinians and ensuring our communities have clean water from the ground to the tap. That is why I am joining my colleagues in this bipartisan effort that would require the EPA to designate PFAS as a hazardous substance, enhancing efforts to clean up existing sites and prevent future contamination,” said Senator Tillis.

“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.”

“The PFAS Action Act of 2019 creates an opportunity for several sites across Florida with known PFAS groundwater contamination to receive EPA Superfund funding for chemical response and clean-up efforts,” said Senator Rubio. “Protecting Florida’s environment, drinking water, and overall human health remains one my highest priorities in Washington, and I am proud to join my colleagues in this effort.”

“American families are rightfully scared and outraged by the idea that they could be involuntarily exposed to dangerous PFAS chemicals that put the most vulnerable among us—especially pregnant women and children—at risk,” said Senator Merkley. “We must use every tool available to combat this crisis, and today, we’re taking a concrete, bipartisan step to ensure that the EPA is able to address PFAS contamination. However, it is critical that Congress dedicate federal funds to the cleanup and remediation of these toxic substances. I will continue to use my role on the Senate Appropriations Committee to fight for this funding.”

“This bipartisan legislation will allow EPA to pursue polluters responsible for PFAS contamination and provide the communities remediation options through Superfund,” said Senator Gardner. “PFAS contamination is a serious issue facing our communities and we need to act quickly to address this challenge. I will continue working to make sure Coloradans have access to clean and safe drinking water.”

“People’s health is at stake and Congress must act to ensure consumers have access to clean, safe drinking water.  The Trump Administration has dragged its feet and prevented people from accessing federally-funded scientific assessments about the safety of their water.  This bill would ensure the EPA acts in a timely manner to hold polluters accountable for cleaning up and protecting our drinking water,” said Senator Reed.

“While the studies surrounding the effects of PFAS are ongoing, emerging findings indicate that these compounds are linked to a number of adverse human health effects,” said Senator Murkowski. “In Alaska, communities such as Utqiagvik, Fairbanks, Dillingham, and many others are currently responding to their groundwater having been contaminated with PFAS, largely due to the use of a fluorinated firefighting foam. This legislation is just one step in the effort to clean up our contaminated lands, but by listing PFAS as a hazardous substance the federal government will be able to coordinate response, assist with remediation, and hold responsible parties liable for clean-up costs.”

“Families in New Hampshire shouldn’t have to worry about the safety of their drinking water every time they turn on the tap,” said Senator Shaheen. “As the nationwide PFAS health impact study moves forward to understand the potential health implications related to PFAS exposure, it’s important that Congress take additional steps to help communities address existing contamination, increase transparency and hold responsible parties accountable for keeping our environment and water supplies clean. This bipartisan, common-sense legislation will help improve accountability and provide Granite State families, and millions more across the nation, with the peace of mind they deserve.”

“It is inexcusable that the Trump administration continues to delay action to address PFAS contamination across the country,” said Senator Bennet. “This bipartisan bill will ensure contaminated sites are cleaned up and resources are available to communities in Colorado so they have access to safe drinking water. Passing this measure is one of many steps we must take to address this public health threat with the urgency it requires.”

“All West Virginians deserve the comfort of knowing that their drinking water is clean and safe. In 2016, Parkersburg, Martinsburg and Vienna were faced with the daunting news that their citizens needed alternative drinking water sources due to unacceptable levels of PFOA in their drinking water systems. And these issues persist in our state. It is the obligation of the EPA and our government to ensure that the public has as many resources and as much as information as possible. That’s why I’m glad to introduce this legislation to make sure the PFAS is properly labeled as a hazardous substance and subject to CERCLA authority from now on,” said Senator Manchin.

In May 2018, former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt announced that EPA would propose designating PFOA and PFOS, two specific PFAS chemicals, as “hazardous substances” through one of the available statutory mechanisms, including CERCLA Section 102. Nearly a year later, on February 14, 2019, EPA released its long-anticipated PFAS Action Plan. The plan included another commitment by EPA to make that designation for PFOA and PFOS, but did not identify the available statutory mechanism it would use, nor how long the designation process would take to complete.

Clear and swift action from Congress to list PFAS as hazardous substances under CERCLA would advance the action already proposed by EPA, enabling the agency to protect human health and the environment in an expeditious manner.

To see the full text of the bill, click HERE.