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Shaheen, Hassan & Bipartisan Group of Senators Introduce PFAS Action Plan of 2019

The bill would designate PFAS chemicals as hazardous substances under our environmental protection laws

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) joined U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-DE), top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW), and a bipartisan group of Senators to introduce the PFAS Action Act, 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, also known as CERCLA.

The PFAS Action Act would require responsible parties to report the excess release of PFAS materials to state and local emergency response officials and be held liable for the costs of response actions, including public health studies by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Moreover, this bipartisan legislation would authorize federal actions to respond to releases of all PFAS chemicals – not just PFOA and PFOS – if the release would present a substantial danger to the environment or public health.

“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.”

“Requiring that the EPA designates all PFAS chemicals as hazardous substances is an important step to help ensure the safety of drinking water in New Hampshire and across the country,” said Senator Hassan. “The EPA has dragged its feet for far too long when it comes to this issue, and I will keep working with members of both parties to ensure that the EPA does its job to keep our communities safe.”

In May 2018, former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt announced that the 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.

Senator Shaheen introduced bipartisan legislation in the last Congress with Senator Rob Portman (R-OH)—the Safe Drinking Water Assistance Act— which Senator Hassan also cosponsored, that would improve federal efforts to identify and address the public health effects of emerging contaminants such as PFAS. Senators Shaheen and Hassan have led efforts to uncover the potential health effects related to PFAS contamination. Shaheen successfully established the first-ever nationwide health study on the impacts of PFAS substances in drinking water, which Senator Hassan supported. Because of Shaheen’s efforts, Pease (the site of the former Pease Air Force Base) will serve as the model site for the nationwide PFAS health study. Shaheen and Hassan also joined in introducing bipartisan legislation, the PFAS Accountability Act, that would hold federal agencies accountable for addressing contamination from PFAS at military bases across the country. 

The bill text can be read here.

Also cosponsoring the bill are Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Gary Peters (D-MI), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Jack Reed (D-RI), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Richard Burr (R-NC), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Tom Udall (D-NM), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI).