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Cleanup Liability Among Concerns About EPA’s Hazardous PFAS Plan

Nov 21, 2022

The EPA is vowing to move quickly to designate two “forever chemicals” as hazardous substances under the Superfund law, but has to balance the Biden administration’s desire to better protect disadvantaged communities with public and private sector fears they’ll be held liable for a problem not of their own making.

The Environmental Protection Agency proposed in September to designate two per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, as hazardous substances under the Superfund law, which backers say would give the agency and states new tools to speed cleanups of sites contaminated with the forever chemicals.

If finalized, the EPA’s proposal would mark its first use of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, or Superfund law, to directly list chemicals as hazardous substances and subject them to the law’s strict liability provisions. The plan, to be finalized in 2023, would designate perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS)—the two most well-known and studied examples of PFAS—as hazardous substances.

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