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U.S. EPA and Congress Renew Efforts to Address Forever Chemicals

May 6, 2021

On April 27, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the formation of a new agency council to address per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).  In the memo, EPA Administrator Michael Regan also reiterated the agency’s commitment to the 2019 PFAS Action Plan.  The chemical can be found in many products, soil, and water.  AGC previously supported the 2019 PFAS Action Plan, because it outlined a deliberate approach to review the science and address concerns that arose.  The agency is taking action on PFAS under several programs including air, significant new uses, wastewater, drinking water, and Superfund.

The PFAS class comprises over 5,000 chemicals used in a variety of industrial and manufacturing applications from firefighting to coatings. Focus on a subset of chemicals in that class has spurred significant public interest in regulating all PFAS the same.  AGC is concerned that the science is still incomplete on the entire class of chemicals and that a one-size-fits-all approach would overwhelm any necessary clean-up efforts.  A class-based approach would add unnecessary risk to contractors who may have unknowingly interacted with any of the numerous PFAS in products or on projects during demolition, earthmoving or dewatering activities. 

The agency is under considerable pressure from Congress and states to act, and multiple bills have sought to skirt the scientific process and force EPA to address the chemicals as a group on a compressed timeframe.  Recently, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) has indicated that he supports regulating the chemicals as a class.  On the House side, U.S. Reps. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) and Fred Upton (R-MI) introduced legislation, the PFAS Action Act, in mid-April.  AGC opposed earlier iterations of the bill for having a one-size-fits-all approach to PFAS and dictating an unrealistically short timeframe for EPA to review the science and develop substantive rulemakings.

If you are interested in PFAS related issues, we would like to hear your perspective.  Please contact Melinda Tomaino at melinda.tomaino@agc.org.

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