PFAS Package Passes Senate

(July 3, 2019) - A major bipartisan effort to address PFAS chemicals advanced last week, as a package of bills that had been passed by the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee was successfully attached to the Senate’s National Defense Authorization Act. The Defense bill passed the Senate on an 86-8 vote.

In attaching the PFAS bills to the Defense bill, Senate leaders believe they may have found the quickest path to getting PFAS legislation through Congress and to President Trump’s desk.

The bipartisan PFAS package has the support of EPW Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY) and Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-DE). The bill is also supported by other Senate champions for PFAS action, such as Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (D-WV), whose state has been acutely affected by groundwater hotspot concerns.

The bill requires EPA to set a Maximum Contaminant Level for drinking water and provides monitoring assistance for water systems, requires tracking of PFAS by the US Geological Survey, and mandates reporting of PFAS discharges through Toxic Release Inventory reporting, among other requirements.  

The bill does not, however, direct EPA to designate PFAS as “hazardous substances” under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA).  This is an important win for NACWA member utilities and their strong advocacy on this issue. 

However, the issue of CERCLA designation remains an area of interest in the Senate. Accordingly, NACWA will remain engaged with Congress regarding the potential unintended impact that a hazardous substance designation for all PFAS could have on the municipal clean water community.

The focus on PFAS legislation is now anticipated to shift to the House of Representatives. Numerous PFAS bills have been introduced in the House, but the House committees of jurisdiction have not yet released a comprehensive legislative package. More work in the House is anticipated throughout the summer.

For more information, contact Kristina Surfus NACWA’s Director of Legislative Affairs, or Emily Remmel, NACWA Director of Regulatory Affairs & Outreach.