Shaheen-Portman Bipartisan Bill to Boost EPA Response to PFAS Clears Key Committee Hurdle
**The Safe Drinking Water Assistance Act Passed the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee in a Package of PFAS Legislation to Combat Exposure to the Harmful Chemicals**
(Washington, DC) – This morning, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) passed a significant package of legislation aimed at combating per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) exposure, which included a bipartisan bill authored by Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Rob Portman (R-OH). The Safe Drinking Water Assistance Act would address barriers that limit the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) response to emerging contaminants like PFAS. The bill also expedites analysis of these chemicals and provides support and resources to states dealing with the health challenges posed by these potentially harmful materials.
PFAS chemicals have emerged as a widespread contaminant in drinking water sources in several communities across the nation, including New Hampshire and Ohio. While the risks associated with PFAS exposure are still being uncovered, studies have linked these unregulated emerging contaminants to a number of adverse health effects.
In addition to the Shaheen-Portman bill, the PFAS package directs EPA to establish enforceable drinking water limits for PFOA and PFOS, two of the most prevalent PFAS chemicals, within two years and creates a process to expedite regulatory considerations of other chemicals in the PFAS family. In February, Senator Shaheen led a bipartisan letter with Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) that called on the EPA to establish federal drinking water standards for PFOA and PFOS, to which the EPA responded that it “intends” to establish these standards. The bipartisan PFAS package would also require manufacturers to report air emissions and water discharges of several PFAS chemicals through the Toxic Release Inventory and direct the U.S. Geological Survey to conduct nationwide sampling for PFAS in the environment.
“PFAS exposure is a pervasive problem affecting water supplies in communities throughout New Hampshire and the nation, so I appreciate the bipartisan response to make combating these harmful chemicals a top priority,” said Shaheen. “Breaking down barriers that impede the Environmental Protection Agency from responding to PFAS exposure, and ensuring our local communities have the resources they need to safeguard their water supplies from contamination are important steps we need to take. I’m glad Republicans and Democrats on the Environment and Public Works Senate Committee agreed and included my bill with Senator Portman to meet these goals, as well as additional measures to establish urgently needed federal drinking water standards for PFAS. I’ll continue to work with members on both sides of the aisle to find a path forward and deliver this bill to the Senate floor for a vote.”
“We must ensure that our drinking water remains safe for all Ohioans, and I am pleased the committee approved this legislation today. The Safe Drinking Water Assistance Act will improve federal efforts to identify the health impacts of unregulated contaminants found in our drinking water sources,” said Portman. “This legislation will help the federal government more efficiently and effectively analyze the impacts of, and respond to, emerging contaminants through greater coordination among federal agencies, and will provide states with the resources they need to monitor, test, and respond to potential risks posed by emerging contaminants.”
Shaheen successfully included portions of the Safe Drinking Water Assistance Act in federal funding legislation signed into law for fiscal year 2018 that helps identify research gaps to address the potential health implications associated with exposure to emerging contaminants. Shaheen and Portman’s bill builds off that work by establishing a national strategy to coordinate the federal response to emerging contaminants, and provide assistance to states in responding to these materials.
Senator Shaheen has spearheaded efforts in Congress 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. 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.
Additionally, earlier this year Shaheen joined Senators Tom Carper (D-DE) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) to introduce the PFAS Action Act, which would mandate that the EPA within one year of enactment declare PFAS as hazardous substances eligible for cleanup funds under the EPA Superfund law, also known as CERCLA. Shaheen also included key provisions in the Armed Services Committee-approved annual defense legislation that would ban PFAS chemicals from firefighting foam, authorize an additional $10 million for her PFAS health impact study and support firefighters impacted by occupational exposure to PFAS.