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U.S. House Passes PFAS Action Act of 2021

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by Patrick J. Paul

On Wednesday July 21, 2021, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the PFAS Action Act of 2021.  The bill, H.R. 2467, passed 241-183 demonstrating its bipartisan support, with twenty-three Republicans joining their Democratic colleagues in supporting the legislation.  H.R. 2467 would regulate toxic chemicals found in drinking water, as well as designate two types of those toxic chemicals as hazardous substances that would trigger federal cleanup standards.

H.R. 2467 would establish requirements and incentives to limit the use of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, commonly referred to as PFAS, and remediate PFAS in the environment. PFAS are man-made and may have adverse human health effects. PFAS are found in a bevy of consumer products such as nonstick cookware, food packaging, and certain weatherproof clothing. The bill would require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)  to create a voluntary label for PFAS in cookware and other consumer products.

Additionally, the bill would direct the EPA to designate the PFAS perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) as hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA), thereby requiring remediation of releases of those PFAS into the environment. Within five years, the EPA would have to determine whether the remaining PFAS also should be designated as CERCLA hazardous substances.

The EPA would also have to determine whether PFAS should be designated as toxic pollutants under the Clean Water Act. If PFAS are designated as toxic, then the EPA would have to establish standards to limit discharges of PFAS from industrial sources into waters of the United States. In addition, the EPA would be required to issue a national primary drinking water regulation for PFAS that, at a minimum, would include standards for PFOA and PFOS. The bill would also require the EPA to provide $200 million annually to upgrade water infrastructure.

Among other requirements, the EPA would also have to issue a final rule adding PFOA and PFOS to the list of hazardous air pollutants, test all PFAS for toxicity to human health, and regulate the disposal of materials containing PFAS.