U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) worked with a bipartisan group of Senators led by Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) yesterday to announce the re-introduction of the PFAS Accountability Act. This legislation would hold federal agencies accountable for addressing contamination for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) at military bases across the country. It comes just days after the release of a new report showing that 19 million people in 43 states have been exposed to PFAS-contaminated water. The bill is also cosponsored by Senators Tom Carper (D-DE), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Richard Burr (R-NC), Gary Peters (D-MI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Joe Manchin (D-WV).
The PFAS Accountability Act sets clear deadlines and reporting requirements for cleaning up PFAS contamination at federal facilities across the country, including active and decommissioned military bases, and mandates greater transparency. It calls on federal facilities, including military and National Guard installations, to expedite cooperative agreements with states to address PFAS contamination. These agreements commit the federal government to take specific actions and enable states and local communities to be reimbursed for costs incurred to address PFAS contamination.
If a cooperative agreement is not reached within a year after a state requests one, the bill requires a federal agency such as the Department of Defense to send a report to Congress explaining the reason for the delay and a projected timeline for completing the agreement. In addition, the bill enables the federal government to issue grants to states, local communities and tribes to take actions to address drinking, ground and surface waters contaminated by PFAS.
“The potential health effects related to PFAS exposure are alarming, which underscores the urgent need to implement a coordinated federal and state response effort to clean up dangerous contamination from these materials as soon as possible,”said Senator Shaheen. “The PFAS Accountability Act will ensure accountability and transparency in protecting the health and safety of our drinking water. Remediation is a critical component to combating water contamination, which makes this bill so important in our strategy to end PFAS exposure.”
“By holding federal agencies accountable for addressing PFAS contamination at military bases, this bipartisan bill is integral to our efforts to ensure that all Granite Staters and Americans have the clean, safe drinking water they need to lead productive lives,” Senator Hassan said.
Just last week, Senator Shaheen reintroduced the Safe Drinking Water Assistance Act with Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), which Senator Hassan also joined as a cosponsor, to boost the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) response to PFAS and empower local communities to protect drinking water supplies from harmful contaminants.
Senator Shaheen has spearheaded efforts in Congress to uncover the potential health effects related to PFAS contamination. Shaheen successfully established the first-ever nationwide health study on the impacts of PFAS substances in drinking water. Because of the New Hampshire Congressional Delegation’s efforts, Pease (the site of the former Pease Air Force Base) will serve as the model site for the nationwide PFAS health study. In February,Senator Shaheen led a bipartisan letter with Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), which Senator Hassan also joined, that called on the EPA to establish federal drinking water standards for PFOA and PFOS, to which the EPA responded that it “intends” to establish these standards.
Additionally, earlier this year Shaheen and Hassan joined Senators Tom Carper (D-DE) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) to introduce the PFAS Action Act, which would mandate that the EPA within one year of enactment declare PFAS as hazardous substances eligible for cleanup funds under the EPA Superfund law, also known as CERCLA. In response to recent news reports that the Department of Defense pressured the EPA to weaken cleanup standards for pollution caused by PFAS, Shaheen doubled-down on her previous request for the department and agency to disclose relevant correspondence regarding the groundwater pollution guidelines for PFAS chemicals.