Senate Committee to Advance PFAS Legislation

(June 26, 2019) - After months of consideration and bipartisan negotiation, the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee last week marked up and unanimously passed via bipartisan agreement a comprehensive PFAS legislative package, the PFAS Release Disclosure and Protection Act of 2019 (S. 1507), to respond to growing public concerns about PFAS.

Over the past several months, NACWA has been working closely with the Committee to ensure that any legislation addressing the PFAS issue reflects the concerns and requests of the public clean water sector, including a liability exclusion in any legislation that would designate all or certain PFAS compounds as hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA)—which would have potential unintended and costly consequences on the public clean water sector. 

Ultimately, thanks in large part to the advocacy work of NACWA and its members, the PFAS legislative package in S. 1507 does not include the CERCLA designation.  Instead, it focuses on:

  • Improving notification, including the listing of PFAS on the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI);
  • Expanding monitoring of PFAS chemicals under the Safe Drinking Water Act;
  • Requiring EPA to set, within two years, a national drinking water standard (MCL) for two key PFAS legacy compounds of concern (PFOA and PFOS) – with a five-year window for water systems to comply without a fine;
  • Requiring nationwide sampling of PFAS in the environment by the US Geological Survey (USGS); and
  • Requiring EPA to publish guidance on how to dispose and destroy PFAS chemicals in water, soils, air and other media, including a specific reference to biosolids.

NACWA is closely reviewing this last required guidance for potential impacts on clean water agencies and will discuss any potential implications further with the committee.

The legislation was also filed as a Senate amendment to the upcoming annual National Defense Authorization Act last week, to use as a vehicle for potential passage of the PFAS bill this year.  At this time the legislative path in the House is less clear, however NACWA is continuing to work to ensure that any legislation that moves forward continues to reflect the needs and challenges of the public clean water sector.

As a flurry of bills have been introduced this Congress, last week Legal News Line published an article with a suggestion that the PFAS issue in Congress may in part being driven by a hysteria fed by trial lawyers in lieu of good scientific research that has yet to determine proper toxicity levels.  As policies on both the legislative and regulatory front continue to advance, NACWA believes—and has advocated—that a greater need for scientific research will be needed to most accurately and properly address the PFAS issue.

NACWA will continue to provide updates as they occur.  In the meantime, please contact Emily Remmel, NACWA’s Director of Regulatory Affairs, or Jason Isakovic, NACWA’s Director of Legislative Affairs, to discuss further.