Van Etten Creek, which has been polluted by PFAS | Michael Gerstein
A group of lawmakers and advocates gathered in Lansing Tuesday to announce the anticipated rollout of a large set of bills targeting toxic “forever chemicals,” which have long plagued Michigan’s drinking water, soil and air.
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are man-made substances, often byproducts of manufacturing, that pose threats to public health. The Michigan PFAS Action Response Team (MPART), has so far identified more than 230 sites in the state with PFAS contamination and 11,000 more potential sites.
The state has also set the tightest standards in the country for identifying and treating PFAS contamination in 2020.
With Democrats in charge of the Legislature this term, lawmakers say they are making further action on the issue a high priority.
“I’ve seen firsthand how in my own district these forever chemicals and the health complications that they cause are impacting residents,” said state Rep. Rachel Hood (D-Grand Rapids).
“ … Legislators are working now to prepare a package of bills, and I imagine that we will be dropping bills well into 2024. This is a really complex legislative area, deeply entrenched in emerging science that sometimes changes from one week to the next,” Hood said.GLPAN+Michigan+Policy+Agenda+2023-2024-no+bleed+or+crop
She added that lawmakers are making sure the bills are airtight so they can move quickly across committee desks, then to the chamber floor “when the time is right.”
Hood said the first bills can be expected by mid-June or earlier, and will likely target PFAS in packaging, cosmetics and other consumer products.
The wide-ranging legislative priorities that will eventually translate into House bills include support for PFAS-impacted communities, more effective contamination cleanup, increased funding for regulatory agencies that deal with PFAS and accountability for polluters.
“We are calling for policy solutions to prevent future PFAS contamination, and that starts with stopping PFAS at the source,” said Sandy Wynn-Stelt, co-chair of the Great Lakes PFAS Action Network.
“Legislatures in states across the country and Midwest have already passed laws to protect their residents’ health and address this issue. We look forward to working with lawmakers in Michigan to ensure we are passing similar policies to lead on the fight against PFAS,” Wynn-Stelt continued.
Lawmakers also noted that while the Legislature works on the state budget for the coming 2024 Fiscal Year, they are making sure to set aside funds dedicated to water infrastructure projects, water treatment plants, stormwater and drinking water protection, environmental justice and site cleanup.
The full list of priorities, along with proposed legislative solutions, include:
- Protecting and supporting PFAS-impacted communities.
- Ensure safe water availability
- Codify MPART and MPART’s Citizen’s Advisory Workgroup (CAWG)
- Require insurance providers to cover the costs of blood testing for PFAS
- Create a financial safety net for farmers whose lands are affected by PFAS
- Establish a medical monitoring cause of action and/or remedy for impacted residents
- Preventing future PFAS contamination.
- Prohibit the sale of all PFAS-containing products except when no safer alternative yet exists — like in Maine and Vermont
- Codify Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s 2021 executive directive ordering state agencies to limit the state’s purchase of products that contain PFAS
- Prohibit PFAS in food packaging and food contact materials — like in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington
- Expanding PFAS testing and monitoring in both surface water bodies and groundwater.
- Holding polluters accountable.
- Ensure polluters are held financially responsible for cleaning up PFAS
- Reform the statute of limitations for filing actions around PFAS and other contaminants
- Eliminating burdens on regulating PFAS.
- Increase funding for regulatory agencies to carry out PFAS prevention, testing, monitoring and cleanup
- Repeal Michigan’s “no stricter than federal” law, which prohibits a state department from enacting rules more stringent than those set by the federal government
- Repeal Michigan’s controversial “polluter panel” — Michigan’s Environmental Rules Review Committee — which environmental advocates say hinders decision-making by state agencies
- Create a legislative PFAS Task Force
- Finding solutions to clean up existing pollution.
- Ban incineration of PFAS waste, etc.
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