Carper, Capito, Gillibrand Introduce Bill to Improve Availability of PFAS Contaminant Information
Bipartisan legislation would create process for identifying, sharing potential sources of PFAS emissions
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.Va.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) today introduced the PFAS Release Disclosure Act, legislation that would improve the availability of information related to perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The bipartisan bill would provide a clear process for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to identify and share with the public and policymakers sources of PFAS emissions around the country, while respecting the formal rulemaking processes and scientific approach.
Next week, on May 22, Senator Carper will lead EPW Democrats in a legislative hearing examining a number of bills aimed at combatting the nationwide problem of PFAS contamination.
“PFAS contamination continues to be found in the drinking water supplies of far too many Americans,” said Senator Carper, the top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW). “Timely and accurate information on the release of these ‘forever chemicals’ is essential to understanding what additional research, cleanup and prevention efforts at every level of government is needed – from municipal water districts to contaminated Defense Department sites to the Environmental Protection Agency. By adding PFAS to the Toxic Release Inventory, we can obtain more data about which PFAS are being released into the environment in order to inform future federal efforts as we continue to remedy this complicated, widespread problem.”
“A significant part of mitigating the harmful effects of PFAS pollution is making sure individuals, businesses, and local leaders have access to information on contaminants,” said Senator Capito, a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee. “This bipartisan legislation would address the challenges posed by the emissions of hundreds of types of PFAS in a responsible, measured, and commonsense way, respecting the rulemaking process while also protecting public health and the environment. It’s another step in addressing what has proven to be a serious and widespread problem and a solution that I hope will lead to smarter, more informed use of PFAS by industry and government moving forward.”
“PFAS contamination is putting the health of millions of Americans at risk, and we must do everything we can to help ensure families in New York and across the country aren’t exposed to dangerous levels of PFAS in their drinking water,” said Senator Gillibrand, a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee. “This bipartisan legislation would make more information about PFAS chemicals available to the public and lawmakers as we work to address this widespread public health crisis. Americans deserve transparency about the PFAS chemicals being released into our environment, and I urge my colleagues to work with us to pass this bipartisan legislation.”
PFAS are broadly used by industry and the U.S. government in consumer products, industrial applications, and mitigating volatile chemical and hydrocarbon fires. However, their frequent and pervasive use at industrial and military installations has led to widespread contamination, a significant emerging health and environmental protection challenge. Identifying potential sources of PFAS emissions into the environment is essential to preventing and remediating this contamination.
The EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) serves as a centralized database of environmental releases or waste processing of toxic chemicals by industrial and federal facilities, and the owners of registered sites are accountable for reporting stockpiles of these chemicals to the EPA. While the TRI currently includes more than 650 chemicals, none are PFAS.
To help address the challenges of PFAS contamination and improve the availability of information related to potential contamination, the PFAS Release Disclosure Act would:
- Require the addition of perfluoroctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS)—the legacy long-chain PFAS with the most significant, scientifically-demonstrated health effects—to the TRI.
- Require that any PFAS subject to an existing Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) be added to the TRI. This provision is believed to apply to almost 200 of the 602 PFAS that are currently in commerce.
- Require any PFAS subject to an ongoing or future SNUR or finalized toxicity value—including the ongoing review of the compound GenX—to be added to the TRI after finalization of the relevant SNUR or toxicity value.
- Direct EPA to decide whether to add several additional specific PFAS for addition to the TRI within two years.
- Set the reporting threshold for PFAS by entities subject to TRI reporting at a level of 100 pounds to ensure a robust dataset following enactment. (The EPA is required to revisit these thresholds after five years.)
- Protect confidential business information from publication while still including PFAS compounds that includes such information in TRI reporting, while directing EPA to take steps to maximize transparency.
More information on the bill is available HERE.
Legislative text is available HERE.
Background on Senator Carper’s recent work on PFAS
Senator Carper announced in February that he had secured an EPA commitment to set a drinking water standard for PFOA and PFOS. This announcement came on the heels of the Senator’s consistent pressure on EPA throughout then-Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s confirmation process in the face of an on-going failure of EPA to set that standard.
In March, Senator Carper and three other Senate committee ranking members requested documents from EPA, DOD, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) related to the interagency review of EPA’s February 2019 “PFAS Action Plan.”
Later that month, after Senator Carper’s EPW staff learned that the Department of Defense may be pressuring EPA to weaken the stringency of PFAS groundwater cleanup guidelines, Senator Carper encouraged EPA to resist pressure from other agencies and to finalize PFAS groundwater cleanup guidance at the drinking water Lifetime Advisory Limit of 70 parts per trillion (ppt).
In March, Senator Carper authored and introduced the PFAS Action Plan of 2019, which would mandate EPA to declare PFAS as hazardous substances eligible for cleanup funds under the EPA Superfund law.
On April 8, Senator Carper joined Bob Casey (D –Pa.) for a roundtable with local officials and community leaders to learn about the community’s struggle with widespread groundwater PFAS contamination.
On April 25, Senator Carper blasted the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) draft interim guidance for addressing groundwater contaminated with PFOA and PFOS. This guidance failed provide the clarity that DOD has agreed to take action to clean up sites that are contaminated at levels between 70-380 ppt, a commitment DOD had previously objected to making.
On April 25, Senator Carper requested a Government Accountability Office (GAO) review of the estimated costs to the federal government to clean up contamination from PFAS contamination to ensure that taxpayer dollars are used effectively and efficiently in cleanup efforts.
On May 9, Senator Carper introduced the PFAS Accountability Act – which sets clear deadlines and reporting requirements for cleaning up PFAS contamination at federal facilities across the country, including active and decommissioned military bases, and mandates greater transparency.