US House Passes PFAS Action Act
On July 21, 2021, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the PFAS Action Act of 2021 (H.R. 2467)...
On July 21, 2021, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the PFAS Action Act of 2021 (H.R. 2467). The bipartisan legislation directs the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take several regulatory actions regarding per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), including setting limits on some PFAS chemicals in drinking water and declaring them hazardous substances.
Increased Regulation of PFAS Chemicals
As discussed in prior articles, PFAS are often referred to as “forever chemicals” because they don’t break down easily in the environment or the human body due to the strong carbon-fluorine bond. Due to their resistance to grease, water, oil, and heat, they are most well-known for their applications in stain-resistant carpeting, water-resistant clothing, flame-retardant textiles and furniture, non-stick and grease-resistant food contact materials (e.g., cookware and fast food packaging), and firefighting foam.
While many U.S. manufacturers have stopped using PFAS in favor of safer alternatives, prior discharges have resulted in very high levels of PFAS in many public and private water systems. According to EWG, more than 320 military sites across the U.S. have PFAS contamination, and more than 200 million Americans may be drinking contaminated water. PFAS have been linked to a wide range of adverse health effects, including cancer, immune system effects, infertility, impaired child development, high cholesterol, and thyroid disease.
Because of their potential harmful effects, regulation of PFAS has increased in recent years, particularly in states like New Jersey. The federal government, however, is still slowly working its way through the regulatory process.
PFAS Action Act of 2021
The PFAS Action Act of 2021 would require EPA to use its existing tools under several environmental statutes to address PFAS contamination and restrict their use going forward. Among other provisions, the PFAS Action Act would:
- Require the EPA to establish a national drinking water standard for PFOA and PFOS within two years.
- Designate PFOA and PFOS chemicals as “hazardous substances” under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) within one year and require the EPA to determine whether to list other PFAS within five years.
- Designate PFOA and PFOS as “hazardous air pollutants” under the Clean Air Act within 180 days and require the EPA to determine whether to list other PFAS within five years.
- Require the EPA to place discharge limits on industrial releases of PFAS and provide $200 million annually for wastewater treatment.
- Prohibit unsafe incineration of PFAS wastes and place a moratorium on the introduction of new PFAS into commerce.
- Require comprehensive PFAS health testing.
- Create a voluntary label for PFAS in cookware.
The House passed the PFAS Action Act passed by a vote of 241 to 183. The legislation now heads to the U.S. Senate for consideration.
The Biden Administration has expressed support for the bill. “The Administration supports passage of H.R. 2467, the PFAS Action Act. Aggressive efforts to analyze the impact of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) on human health and the environment are necessary to meet the challenges associated with developing regulations to reduce exposure to these substances and improve public health,” the Administration wrote in a statement. “The Administration is pressing forward with targeted actions in its regulatory agenda to achieve this goal, and looks forward to working with the sponsors on this critical issue.”
Even if it never becomes law, the PFAS Action Act is putting significant pressure on the EPA and the Biden Administration to act more quickly to address PFAS contamination, particularly with respect to establishing national drinking water standards. As a result, businesses should be prepared for additional PFAS regulations in the near term.
If you have questions, please contact us
If you have any questions or if you would like to discuss the matter further, please contact me, Teddy Eynon, or the Scarinci Hollenbeck attorney with whom you work, at 201-896-4100.
AboutEdward "Teddy" Eynon
Edward “Teddy” Eynon is Managing Partner of Scarinci Hollenbeck’s Washington, D.C. office. Teddy regularly represents clients in numerous government-related matters, including public policy, energy and environment, budget, defense, healthcare, financial services, transportation & infrastructure, congressional investigations, and oversight issues.Full Biography
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