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Shaheen & Hassan Join Bicameral, Bipartisan Letter Urging FAA to Take Immediate Action to Enable Airports to Transition to PFAS-Free Firefighting Foam

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) joined U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and U.S. Representative Dan Kildee (MI-05) in sending a bipartisan letter to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) urging the agency to take immediate action to enable U.S. civilian airports to use PFAS-free firefighting foam. 

The 2018 FAA Reauthorization bill that Senator Hassan helped develop as a member of the Commerce Committee and Senator Shaheen supported made it so that as of October 4, 2021, FAA could no longer require that civilian airports use firefighting foams containing toxic PFAS chemicals. However, because FAA has not authorized the use of any alternative PFAS-free foams, provided any information about applying the UL 162 performance requirements to fluorine-free foams at airports, or updated the current military specification performance standard, airports are not able to make the switch at this time. The letter clarifies that Congress’ original intent of Section 332 was to trigger actions by the FAA so airports would have the option to begin using PFAS-free firefighting foam by October 4, 2021. 

The lawmakers wrote, “…we urge you to take immediate action to update the current performance standard requirements for civilian airports and ensure airports are able to start using PFAS-free foam alternatives as soon as possible. As Members of Congress who represent communities impacted by PFAS pollution from airports, we are urging the FAA to act swiftly to address this urgent issue. Any delay in updating the current performance requirements and authorizing a PFAS-free alternative will continue to exacerbate the potential contamination of ground and drinking water supplies by PFAS, endangering the health of those who reside in communities near airports.” 

Specifically, the letter requests that FAA: 

  • Provide specific actions FAA plans to take to enable airports to complete the switch to PFAS-free foam and propose a timeline for each action; and 
  • Immediately allow all U.S. civilian airports to use fluorine-free foam, and allow them the flexibility to meet standards used by international airports such as ICAO Level B

PFAS chemicals, like perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and?perfluorooctane?sulfonate (PFOS), have emerged as widespread contaminants in the drinking water sources of military bases across the country and are tied to serious illness and health effects. The Pease International?Tradeport in Portsmouth, New Hampshire?formerly served as an Air Force base and experienced considerable drinking water contamination from PFAS chemicals. 

Senators?Shaheen and Hassan are leading efforts in Congress to uncover the potential health effects related to PFAS contamination, respond to the chemical exposure and remediate polluted sites. As a lead negotiator of the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that was signed into law this week, Shaheen secured $10 billion to address PFAS contamination in drinking water. The new law also includes Senator Hassan’s provision to better ensure that more New Hampshire towns would be eligible for an advanced technology grant program that can be used to remove PFAS from drinking water. In addition to her?comprehensive PFAS amendment with Senators Gillibrand and Blumenthal, Shaheen?successfully secured an authorization for an additional $15 million to continue the PFAS health impact study at Pease?in the fiscal year 2022 Senate Armed Services Committee-approved National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Shaheen has fought to secure consistent federal support for this study, which she established four years ago. Because of the New Hampshire congressional delegation’s efforts, Pease is serving as a model site for the nationwide study. The study at Pease is actively seeking participants.

The Senators have also worked specifically on addressing fire fighters’ exposure to PFAS chemicals. The FY2020 NDAA?included Shaheen’s bipartisan legislation, the Protecting Military Firefighters from PFAS Act, requiring the Department of Defense to include blood testing for PFAS as part of routine physicals for military firefighters, as well as a provision authored by Shaheen that would phase out the use of PFAS in DOD firefighting foams by 2024. This summer, the Senate passed the Protecting Fire Fighters from Adverse Substances (PFAS) Act, bipartisan legislation that Senator Hassan helped introduce to protect fire fighters from dangerous PFAS chemicals.

The bicameral letter was also signed by Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Ed Markey (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Gary Peters (D-MI), and Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) as well as Representatives Madeleine Dean (D-PA), Mike Gallagher (R-WI), Ann McLane Kuster (D-NH), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Fred Upton (R-MI), David Rouzer (R-NC), Andy Levin (D-MI), Ro Khanna (D-CA), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Bill Posey (R-FL), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Ron Kind (D-WI), Michael R. Turner (R-OH), Jared Huffman (D-CA), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Grace Meng (D-NY), Don Young (R-AR), Chris Pappas (D-NH), Adam Smith (D-WA), Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Mondaire Jones (D-NY), Peter Welch (D-VT), Derek Kilmer (D-WA), Deborah Ross (D-NC), Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Peter Meijer (R-MI), James McGovern (D-MA), Elissa Slotkin (D-MI), Nancy Mace (R-SC), Haley Stevens (D-MI), Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), Kathleen Rice (D-NY), Donald Beyer (D-VA), and John Larson (D-CT). 

To read the full letter, please click here