Nessel, 18 AGs urge U.S. Senate to pass federal PFAS action bill

By: - November 19, 2021 3:16 pm

Foam products used by firefighters contain PFAS | U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Attorney General Dana Nessel and a coalition of 18 other attorneys general are calling upon upon a U.S. Senate committee to take swift action to improve federal PFAS standards.

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of toxic “forever chemicals” known to cause harm to human health, and can be found in drinking water, soil and air across the country.

In the Monday letter addressed to the U.S. Senate’s Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, the attorneys general urge committee leadership to pass or build upon the bipartisan PFAS Action Act of 2021, also known as HR 2467.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell | Andrew Roth

HR 2467 was introduced by U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn) on April 13. It passed in the U.S. House in July, then read twice in the U.S. Senate before being referred to the EPW Committee.

“We are already hard at work in Michigan investigating and addressing PFAS contamination,” Nessel said. “But our efforts here in Michigan will be strengthened by congressional action to regulate these harmful chemicals and fund needed research and study of their effects.” 

Last year, Michigan adopted the strictest maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) in the nation for seven specific PFAS compounds: PFNA (6 ppt), PFOA (8 ppt), PFHxA (400,000 ppt), PFOS (16 ppt), PFHxS (51 ppt), PFBS (420 ppt) and GenX (370 ppt).

In the letter, the attorneys general outline several priorities that they want to see addressed in legislation, including:

  • Designating the chemicals as “hazardous substances” under the federal Superfund law.
  • Designating PFAS as “hazardous air pollutants” under the federal Clean Air Act and prohibiting the unsafe incineration of the chemicals.
  • Establishing national drinking water standards for PFAS and controlling PFAS discharges.
  • Providing funding for drinking water suppliers to remediate PFAS in drinking water.
  • Providing funding to states to remediate PFAS contamination.
  • Making medical screenings available to all U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) personnel and members of the public who may have been exposed to elevated levels of PFAS.
  • Prohibiting the use and limiting the storage of PFAS-containing firefighting foam at federal facilities.

“The public in our states and in states across the country increasingly understand the gravity of risks that PFAS contamination poses to their health and the environment,” the letter reads.

“Without additional federal legislative support, states’ responses to this burgeoning threat will be hindered, and the public may lose confidence in the safety of the water they drink, the air they breathe, and the consumer products they use.”

The 19 attorneys general also point to the “PFAS roadmap” announced by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last month, which they say provides a valuable timeline for achieving certain goals, but still requires legislation like HR 2467 to ensure “urgent needs are met in a timely fashion and with sufficient appropriations.”

Signing onto the letter with Nessel are the attorneys general of New York, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia.

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Laina G. Stebbins
Laina G. Stebbins

Laina G. Stebbins is a former Michigan Advance reporter. A lifelong Michigander, she is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service.