Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) is announcing two major victories in her long-term fight to limit the discharge of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) into our communities. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has recently heeded two of Gillibrand’s calls to improve PFAS regulatory standards and to protect communities from these toxic “forever chemicals.
“PFAS contamination is a nationwide crisis that requires a comprehensive and ambitious response. Every step we take to address the scourge of cancer-causing PFAS chemicals in our drinking water, food, and environment is critical to the health and future of our communities,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Overwhelming evidence shows that PFAS is highly toxic to human health and our environment, and I am pleased that EPA is taking important steps to improve regulatory standards and safeguards that I have called for. We must continue taking an aggressive approach to regulate PFAS chemicals and to address the scale of the problem.”
1. Following Gillibrand’s Call to Action, EPA Proposes Rule to Close Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) Loophole
In the FY20 NDAA, Senator Gillibrand successfully secured a provision that added 172 PFAS to the list of chemicals covered by EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory (TRI), a centralized database that polluters must submit reports to when listed toxic chemicals are released into the environment. However, EPA’s implementation of the provision included a significant loophole that allowed certain large releases of PFAS chemicals to go unreported. Senator Gillibrand filed an amendment to the FY22 NDAA and has been working with Senator Duckworth (D-IL) on a bill that would close this harmful loophole. On December 5th, EPA published a proposed rule to eliminate the loophole, which, once finalized, will ensure that facilities properly disclose PFAS releases.
2. Following Her October Push, Gillibrand Applauds EPA’s Strengthened Guidance to States on PFAS Pollution
This October, Gillibrand led 13 colleagues in a letter calling on EPA to increase its efforts to stop the flow of PFAS pollution ahead of the release of its guidance to state permitting authorities on how to address PFAS in National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits. In the letter, the senators explained that the NPDES guidance should support the goal of eliminating PFAS discharges into the environment, clarify that all known or suspected sources have an obligation to monitor and disclose PFAS in their effluent, and recognize that Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTWs) have the authority to require pretreatment of indirect discharges they receive. The new guidance, which was published on December 5th, includes many of the critical elements requested by Senator Gillibrand and her colleagues and represents a significant step forward in the fight to combat PFAS pollution. Gillibrand’s letter was signed by Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Ed Markey (D-MA). Representatives Pappas and Fitzpatrick led the House companion letter.
Senator Gillibrand has long been a leader in the fight to protect communities who have suffered from PFAS exposure, having successfully pushed to include a phase-out of DoD’s use of firefighting foam containing PFAS in the FY20 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Most recently, Gillibrand secured provisions in the FY22 NDAA to expedite the testing, cleanup, and remediation of PFAS at some of the most contaminated U.S. military installations, and she introduced a landmark bill, the PFAS Firefighter Protection Act, which would completely ban firefighting foam containing PFAS chemicals.