Advance Notice: Briefs

Whitmer, 14 govs. tell Congress to include strong PFAS provisions in defense bill

By: - September 18, 2019 1:34 pm

The Pentagon | Wikimedia Commons

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer led a group of 15 bipartisan governors in a letter sent Wednesday to both the U.S. Senate and House Armed Services Committees backing provisions related to per- and polyfluoralkyl substances (PFAS) in the FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer
Gretchen Whitmer | Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

Several members of Michigan’s congressional delegation have sponsored amendments on PFAS, as it’s contained in firefighting foam found in many current and former military bases in the state and across the country. PFAS has leached into groundwater, surface water and nearby private wells used for drinking water in many locations.

However, the President Trump administration has taken issue with several of the measures.

“All Michiganders deserve to know that we are prioritizing their health and are working diligently to protect their drinking water,” said Whitmer. “While Michigan has become a leader when it comes to identifying and cleaning up PFAS contamination, it’s clear that federal action is needed to further address PFAS, including contamination in and around military sites.”

DOD data show 4 more Michigan military PFAS sites

As the Advance has reported, a new report shows four more Michigan military sites that tested positive for contamination PFAS, according to the Washington, D.C.-based Environmental Working Group (EWG). Michigan has the most PFAS contaminated sites in the United States, although the high number reflects the state’s aggressive testing and sampling program.

Other governors signing on are: Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, John Carney of Delaware, Roy Cooper of North Carolina, Andrew Cuomo of New York, Mike DeWine of Ohio, Tony Evers of Wisconsin, Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico, Jay Inslee of Washington, Ralph Northam of Virginia, Phil Scott of Vermont, Chris Sununu of New Hampshire, Phil Murphy of New Jersey, Tim Walz of Minnesota and Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania, all signed onto the letter.

They urge that the final legislation that includes the strongest provisions from both the U.S. House and Senate bills, including the following that would:

  • Require EPA to set an enforceable, nationwide drinking water standard under the Safe Drinking Water Act for PFOA and PFOS within two years of enactment, while preserving states’ authority to enact their own, more stringent standards.  

Michigan Dems flood D.C. PFAS hearing: ‘We cannot have another Flint water crisis’

  • Require the EPA to list PFAS chemicals as hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) within one year. 
  • Require the EPA to revise the list of toxic pollutants under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (commonly known as the Clean Water Act) to include PFAS and publish effluent and pretreatment standards.  
  • Phase out the use of PFAS in aqueous film forming foam (AFFF) as quickly as possible.  
  • Urge the DoD to finalize cooperative agreements with states and partner with governors to test, monitor, remove, and remediate PFAS contamination originating from DoD activities, including at decommissioned military installations and National Guard facilities. Require that if a cooperative agreement is not reached within one year of the request from a state, the Secretary of Defense must report to Congress with an explanation of why an agreement has not been reached. Remediation should satisfy both federal and state/local remediation targets. 
  • Grant the National Guard Bureau access to specific environmental remediation program funding in FY 2020. 

Michigan lawmakers seize critical defense bill to tackle PFAS in drinking water

  • Authorize the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to develop advanced testing methods capable of detecting PFAS, and to conduct nationwide sampling for these chemicals – focusing first on areas near drinking water with known or suspected PFAS contamination.   
  • Require the DoD to treat and clean PFAS-contaminated water used for agricultural purposes. 
  • Require public disclosure, as part of Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) annual reports, when environmental releases of about 200 PFAS chemicals occur – including PFOS and PFOA

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Susan J. Demas

Susan J. Demas is a 23-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on C-SPAN, MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQ people, the state budget, the economy and more. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 100 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive.