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A 19-State Coalition Urges Congress to Pass the PFAS Action Act
COMMENTARY

November 19, 2021by Jonathan Sharp, Chief Financial Officer, Environmental Litigation Group, P.C.
PFAS leaching into the nation's water supply has long been a major concern to health officials.

On Nov. 15, 2021, California Attorney General Rob Bonta joined a coalition of 19 attorneys in urging Congress to enact the PFAS Action Act, legislation amending federal environmental laws to address PFAS contamination and provide funding for cleanup.

In recent years, the family of manufactured chemicals called per- and polyfluoroalkyl compounds referred to collectively as PFAS, have been the subject of increasing regulatory scrutiny. The chemicals, which were developed by 3M and DuPont, are used in everything from Teflon pans to food packaging to water-resistant apparel.

According to the Division of Toxicology of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, PFAS exposure is a public health risk that federal and state health authorities are interested in studying more. The agency highlighted research demonstrating a relationship between PFAS exposure and liver disorders, low birth weight, cancer, and other health issues.

While research is ongoing, and more data is needed to determine these chemicals’ toxicity, legislators on both sides of the aisle are concerned about the effects of “forever chemicals,” as it’s often referred to, on humans and the environment.

Few PFAS producers or users face as serious liabilities as the U.S. Department of Defense, which will have to pay at least $2 billion, if not more to clean up groundwater and drinking wells tainted by years of seepage from the military’s firefighting foams.

Since the 1970s, these chemicals have been employed as constituents in firefighting foams that the military has routinely used during training and emergencies.

“PFAS contamination is a public health and environmental crisis of unprecedented scope, impacting nearly every person in this country. These toxic forever chemicals have leached into our groundwater and accumulated in our bodies, with our service members, our firefighters and our children at particular risk. I urge Congress to prioritize the health of our communities and move to swiftly pass the PFAS Action Act. There is no time to waste,” said Bonta.

At least 385 military facilities around the country have been confirmed to contain PFAS contamination in their groundwater, which has most certainly spread beyond the facility boundaries. Active-duty members, base employees, their spouses, and their children drank, bathed and cooked with PFAS-contaminated water.

Attorneys general wrote to Congress urging them to approve the PFAS Action Act and expressing strong support for essential goals, including the following:

  • Designate PFAS as CERCLA Hazardous Substances in order to encourage the remediation of heavily polluted sites;
  • Add PFOA and PFOS to the list of hazardous air pollutants under the Clean Air Act and ban improper incineration;
  • Set national primary drinking water regulations for PFAS under the Safe Drinking Water Act, and limit PFAS wastewater emissions under the Clean Water Act;
  • Provide funding to drinking water suppliers to treat contaminated water and to states for PFAS remediation;
  • Make medical testing accessible to all members of the U.S. Department of Defense and the general public who may have been exposed to high amounts of PFAS;
  • Interdict the use and storage of PFAS-containing firefighting foam in military facilities.

Additionally, the legislation would expand on the Environmental Protection Agency’s recent “whole-of-agency approach” to PFAS pollution, as outlined in its PFAS Strategic Roadmap. While the Roadmap outlines important and beneficial initiatives and deadlines for reaching specific objectives, legislation is still required to guarantee that pressing requirements are handled in a timely manner and with enough funding, as the EPA acknowledged in its testimony before this Committee.

Bonta is joined in the letter by the attorneys general of Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and Washington, D.C.


Jonathan Sharp is the chief financial officer of the Environmental Litigation Group, P.C., a law firm, founded in 1990 and located in Birmingham, Alabama, that has represented a diverse range of clients in major environmental and occupational hazardous exposure cases, providing them with innovative legal strategies to achieve their goals.

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