May 16, 2019

Gillibrand, Capito, Carper Introduce Bill To Identify The Sources Of PFAS Emissions In New York And Across The Country

PFAS Are A Toxic Group of Chemicals That Are Pervasive in the Environment and Linked to Serious Health Problems; Have Been Detected in 43 States Across the Country

Washington, DC – U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), and Tom Carper (D-DE) today introduced new bipartisan legislation to identify and publicly share the sources of PFAS emissions in New York and across the country. PFAS, or per- and polyfluoralkyl substances, are a toxic group of chemicals that are pervasive in the environment and are difficult to break down. They can seep into drinking water supplies and have been linked to cancers and other serious health problems. These chemicals are broadly used in consumer products, industrial applications, and military installations. Their frequent use has led to widespread contamination; a new report has revealed that PFAS chemicals have been detected across 43 states in the nation.

The PFAS Release Disclosure Act would specifically require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to create a clear process to add PFAS chemicals, including perfluoroctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) – two of the most pervasive PFAS chemicals with scientifically demonstrated health effects – to the Toxic Release Inventory (TRI), a centralized database of environmental releases of toxic chemicals. This would improve the availability of information related to the emissions of PFAS and help identify the potential sources of PFAS emissions in the environment.

“PFAS contamination is putting the health of millions of Americans at risk, and we must do everything we can to help ensure families in New York and across the country aren’t exposed to dangerous levels of PFAS in their drinking water,” said Senator Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW). “This bipartisan legislation would make more information about PFAS chemicals available to the public and lawmakers as we work to address this widespread public health crisis. Americans deserve transparency about the PFAS chemicals being released into our environment, and I urge my colleagues to work with us to pass this bipartisan legislation.”

“A significant part of mitigating the harmful effects of PFAS pollution is making sure individuals, businesses, and local leaders have access to information on contaminants,” said Senator Capito, a leader on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW). “This bipartisan legislation would address the challenges posed by the emissions of hundreds of types of PFAS in a responsible, measured, and commonsense way, respecting the rulemaking process while also protecting public health and the environment. It’s another step in addressing what has proven to be a serious and widespread problem and a solution that I hope will lead to smarter, more informed use of PFAS by industry and government moving forward.”

“PFAS contamination continues to be found in the drinking water supplies of far too many Americans,” said Senator Carper, the top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW). “Timely and accurate information on the release of these ‘forever chemicals’ is essential to understanding what additional research, cleanup and prevention efforts at every level of government is needed – from municipal water districts to contaminated Defense Department sites to the Environmental Protection Agency. By adding PFAS to the Toxic Release Inventory, we can obtain more data about which PFAS are being released into the environment in order to inform future federal efforts as we continue to remedy this complicated, widespread problem.”

The TRI serves as a vital resource for communities to identify the sources of contamination. It requires polluters to publicly report when chemicals are released in into the environment, but currently, none of the 650 chemicals listed on the TRI database are PFAS chemicals.

To help address the widespread challenges of PFAS contamination, the PFAS Release Disclosure Act would specifically do the following:

  • Require the addition of perfluoroctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS)—the legacy long-chain PFAS with the most significant, scientifically-demonstrated health effects—to the TRI.
  • Require that any PFAS subject to an existing Significant New Use Rule (SNUR) under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) be added to the TRI. This provision is believed to apply to almost 200 of the 602 PFAS that are currently in commerce.
  • Require any PFAS subject to an ongoing or future SNUR or finalized toxicity value—including the ongoing review of the compound GenX—to be added to the TRI after finalization of the relevant SNUR or toxicity value.
  • Direct EPA to decide whether to add several additional specific PFAS for addition to the TRI within two years.
  • Set the reporting threshold for PFAS by entities subject to TRI reporting at a level of 100 pounds to ensure a robust dataset following enactment. (The EPA is required to revisit these thresholds after five years.)
  • Protect confidential business information from publication while still including PFAS compounds that includes such information in TRI reporting, while directing EPA to take steps to maximize transparency.

This is the second PFAS-related bill Senators Gillibrand and Capito have introduced this week. The senators also announced their bill that would require the EPA to set maximum contaminant level for PFAS chemicals in drinking water. Both bills would help protect communities from exposure to these dangerous chemicals.

A copy of the PFAS Release Disclosure Act is available here.