Shaheen-Portman Bipartisan Bill to Boost EPA Response to PFAS Included in Senate-Passed Defense Bill

June 27, 2019

(Washington, DC) –  U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, announced that her bipartisan bill with Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) – the Safe Drinking Water Assistance Act – was included in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that passed the Senate. The annual legislation authorizes national defense objectives for the fiscal year. Once the House of Representatives passes its version of the bill, the two chambers will conference on final legislation. The Safe Drinking Water Assistance Act would address barriers that limit the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) response to emerging contaminants like per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The Shaheen-Portman 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.

“PFAS exposure is a serious problem impacting communities throughout New Hampshire and the nation, so I appreciate the bipartisan consensus to include my bill with Senator Portman that makes 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 the annual defense bill continues to serve as an important vector to deliver for our communities on this important issue, and I’ll keep working to find solutions to stop PFAS exposure and ensure the safety of our drinking water.”

“We must ensure that our drinking water remains safe for all Ohioans, and that’s why I am pleased the Safe Drinking Water Assistance Act was included in the Senate-passed NDAA today. Passage of 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 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.”

In addition to the Shaheen-Portman bill, the defense bill contains a number of Shaheen-led provisions to address PFAS exposure, including:

  • Shaheen’s legislation that would ban the Department of Defense from procuring firefighting foam that contains PFAS after October 1, 2022 and would prohibit its use in the military after October 1, 2023. 
  • A $10 million authorization to continue the PFAS health impact study Shaheen established in the FY2018 NDAA, which is set to begin this summer at the former Pease air base.
  • Shaheen’s legislation with Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) — the Protecting Military Firefighters from PFAS Act – that would require the Department of Defense to include blood testing for PFAS as part of routine physicals for military firefighters.
  • Comprehensive PFAS legislation cosponsored by Shaheen that directs the EPA to establish enforceable drinking water limits for PFOA and PFOS, two of the most prevalent PFAS chemicals, within two years, creates a process to expedite regulatory considerations of other chemicals in the PFAS family, and requires manufacturers to report air emissions and water discharges of several PFAS chemicals through a Toxic Release Inventory.

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.