A kitchen sink faucet, with the water turned on

PFAS Chemicals

Per- and poly­flu­o­ralkyl sub­stances (PFAS) are long-lived chem­i­cals that have been wide­ly used in con­sumer prod­ucts, includ­ing fire-retar­dant foam, tex­tiles and non-stick cook­ware, since at least the 1950s. PFAS chem­i­cals can cause repro­duc­tive, devel­op­men­tal, liv­er and kid­ney dam­age and have been linked to can­cer. The chem­i­cals are often found in drink­ing water sup­plies at lev­els that are unsafe. Learn more about pend­ing fed­er­al leg­is­la­tion to address PFAS con­t­a­m­i­na­tion here.

EPA’s Draft Inter­im PFAS Recommendations

2017-2021

  • Feb­ru­ary 2019

    In Feb­ru­ary 2019, EPA released its Action Plan for PFAS chem­i­cals, includ­ing per­flu­o­rooc­tanoic acid (PFOA) and per­flu­o­rooc­tane sul­fonate (PFOS). PFOA and PFOS are ubiq­ui­tous, long-chain PFAS chem­i­cals that have been phased out by some man­u­fac­tur­ers, but pose a con­tin­u­ing con­cern for some com­mu­ni­ties across the coun­try due to a lega­cy of PFOA and PFOS con­t­a­m­i­na­tion. The Action Plan failed to take strong steps to reg­u­late PFAS chem­i­cals under sev­er­al envi­ron­men­tal statutes and to estab­lish cleanup stan­dards for PFAS con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed sites across the country.

  • April 2019

    In April 2019, the EPA released its draft inter­im rec­om­men­da­tions to address ground­wa­ter con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed with PFOA and PFOS. The guid­ance pro­vides inter­im rec­om­men­da­tions for screen­ing lev­els and pre­lim­i­nary reme­di­a­tion goals to inform final cleanup lev­els for PFOA and PFOS con­t­a­m­i­na­tion of ground­wa­ter that is a source of drink­ing water.

  • June 2019

    In June 2019, Cal­i­for­nia Attor­ney Gen­er­al Xavier Becer­ra led Col­orado Attor­ney Gen­er­al Phil Weis­er and Ore­gon Attor­ney Gen­er­al Ellen Rosen­blum in fil­ing com­ments with the EPA in response to the inter­im rec­om­men­da­tions. The attor­neys gen­er­al not­ed that the EPA’s sug­gest­ed screen­ing lev­els and pre­lim­i­nary reme­di­a­tion goals are too high, which could result in many con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed sites being insuf­fi­cient­ly cleaned up or not iden­ti­fied at all. The com­ments point­ed out that the inter­im rec­om­men­da­tions should have includ­ed more PFAS chem­i­cals than just PFOA and PFOS as all PFAS chem­i­cals cause adverse human health effects. Last­ly, the let­ter requests that EPA imme­di­ate­ly des­ig­nate PFAS chem­i­cals as haz­ardous sub­stances” under the Com­pre­hen­sive Envi­ron­men­tal Response, Com­pen­sa­tion, and Lia­bil­i­ty Act (the Super­fund statute), which would like­ly trig­ger the cleanup of con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed ground­wa­ter under the law.

    That same month, Michi­gan Attor­ney Gen­er­al Dana Nes­sel sub­mit­ted her own com­ments on EPA’s draft inter­im rec­om­men­da­tions for PFOA and PFOS ground­wa­ter con­t­a­m­i­na­tion. Attor­ney Gen­er­al Nessel’s com­ments not­ed that state and fed­er­al agency research indi­cates that the EPA’s screen­ing lev­els and pre­lim­i­nary reme­di­a­tion goals should be low­er than the EPA’s sug­ges­tions. The com­ments also urged the EPA to set a time­frame for address­ing PFAS chem­i­cals beyond just PFOA and PFOS as there is an emerg­ing con­sen­sus that oth­er PFAS chem­i­cals have adverse health impacts.

  • Decem­ber 2019

    In Decem­ber 2019, the EPA released its final inter­im rec­om­men­da­tions to address ground­wa­ter con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed with PFOA and PFOS chem­i­cals. The guidance’s sug­gest­ed screen­ing lev­els and pre­lim­i­nary reme­di­a­tion goals are high, which could result in many con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed sites being insuf­fi­cient­ly cleaned up or not identified.

Sup­port­ing Con­gres­sion­al Action

2017-2021

  • July 2019

    In July 2019, as Con­gress con­sid­ered enact­ing leg­is­la­tion with PFAS pro­vi­sions, New York Attor­ney Gen­er­al Leti­tia James led a coali­tion of 20 attor­neys gen­er­al in send­ing a let­ter to Con­gress dis­cussing states’ imme­di­ate leg­isla­tive needs to respond to PFAS con­t­a­m­i­na­tion. The let­ter request­ed that Con­gress instruct the EPA to speed cleanups by des­ig­nat­ing PFOA and PFOS as haz­ardous sub­stances” under the Com­pre­hen­sive Envi­ron­men­tal Response, Com­pen­sa­tion, and Lia­bil­i­ty Act (or Super­fund statute) and to eval­u­ate whether addi­tion­al PFAS chem­i­cals should be des­ig­nat­ed as haz­ardous substances.”

    The let­ter also peti­tioned Con­gress to add PFAS chem­i­cals to the Emer­gency Plan­ning and Com­mu­ni­ty Right-to-Know Act’s Tox­ic Release Inven­to­ry (TRI) to facil­i­tate the dis­clo­sure of infor­ma­tion about new poten­tial sources and areas of PFAS con­t­a­m­i­na­tion. Addi­tion­al­ly, the attor­neys gen­er­al request­ed that the U.S. Geo­log­i­cal Sur­vey (USGS) be tasked with con­duct­ing a nation­wide sam­pling effort and sur­vey of human and envi­ron­men­tal expo­sure to PFAS in order to deter­mine the scope of PFAS con­t­a­m­i­na­tion. Con­gress was also urged to pro­hib­it the use and stor­age of a fire­fight­ing foam con­tain­ing PFAS chem­i­cals that is often used in fire­fight­ing train­ing activ­i­ties at mil­i­tary bases and to pro­vide med­ical screen­ing for ser­vice mem­bers and mem­bers of the pub­lic who may have been exposed to PFAS chemicals.

  • August 2019

    In August 2019, Penn­syl­va­nia Attor­ney Gen­er­al Joshua Shapiro sent his own let­ter to Con­gress, request­ing that Con­gress pass leg­is­la­tion to respond to the PFAS con­t­a­m­i­na­tion cri­sis. As the two hous­es rec­on­cile the dif­fer­ences in their respec­tive ver­sions of the fis­cal year 2020 Nation­al Defense Autho­riza­tion Act (NDAA) (“2019 NDAA and Appro­pri­a­tion Bills”), the let­ter urged that Con­gress adopt two pro­vi­sions in the Sen­ate NDAA: advanc­ing Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol research on the health and envi­ron­men­tal impacts of PFAS chem­i­cals and requir­ing the EPA to con­duct stud­ies of the PFAS fam­i­ly of chem­i­cals under the Safe Drink­ing Water Act (SDWA). The let­ter also sup­port­ed mul­ti­ple ele­ments of the House’s NDAA, such as the list­ing of all PFAS chem­i­cals under Super­fund as a haz­ardous sub­stance; phas­ing out the military’s use of fire­fight­ing foam con­tain­ing PFAS chem­i­cals; requir­ing coop­er­a­tive agree­ments between the Depart­ment of Defense (DOD) and states for cleanup of PFAS chem­i­cals near mil­i­tary instal­la­tions; and list­ing PFAS chem­i­cals as a tox­ic pol­lu­tant or haz­ardous sub­stance under the Clean Water Act.

  • Decem­ber 2019

    In Decem­ber 2019, the con­fer­ence report for the fis­cal year 2020 NDAA was released. Although the con­fer­ence report did not include the strongest PFAS pro­vi­sion that the attor­neys gen­er­al request­ed – des­ig­nat­ing PFOA and PFOS as haz­ardous sub­stances under Super­fund – the leg­is­la­tion did include many oth­er pro­vi­sions the attor­neys gen­er­al had sup­port­ed. Includ­ed in the con­fer­ence report were the fol­low­ing pro­vi­sions that the attor­neys gen­er­al had pushed: the USGS sam­pling effort; ban­ning mil­i­tary use of fire­fight­ing foam con­tain­ing PFAS chem­i­cals after Octo­ber 1, 2024; and use of coop­er­a­tive agree­ments between states and the DOD for removal of PFAS con­t­a­m­i­na­tion near mil­i­tary installations.

    The House passed the fis­cal year 2020 NDAA on Decem­ber 11, 2019 and the Sen­ate passed the leg­is­la­tion on Decem­ber 17, 2019. The pres­i­dent signed the bill into law on Decem­ber 20, 2019. More infor­ma­tion about the PFAS pro­vi­sions in the NDAA is avail­able in the PFAS Fed­er­al Leg­is­la­tion report (“2019 NDAA and Appro­pri­a­tion Bills”).

  • Jan­u­ary 2020

    The House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives expressed dis­ap­point­ment that the 2019 leg­is­la­tion did not go far enough to address PFAS issues. Accord­ing­ly, in Jan­u­ary 2020, the House passed the PFAS Action Act (H.R. 535), omnibus-PFAS leg­is­la­tion. Among numer­ous pro­vi­sions, the PFAS Action Act includes a pro­vi­sion that would des­ig­nate PFOA and PFOS as haz­ardous sub­stances under the Super­fund statute. Sen­ate lead­er­ship is not expect­ed to take up com­pan­ion leg­is­la­tion in the Sen­ate for the fore­see­able future. More infor­ma­tion about the PFAS Action Act is avail­able in the PFAS Fed­er­al Leg­is­la­tion report (“Sum­ma­ry of Key Bills”).

  • Octo­ber 2020

    In Octo­ber 2020, as the two hous­es of Con­gress attempt­ed to rec­on­cile dif­fer­ences in their respec­tive ver­sions of the fis­cal year 2021 NDAA (“2020 NDAA, WRDA and Appro­pri­a­tion Bills”), Michi­gan Attor­ney Gen­er­al Nes­sel led a coali­tion of 20 attor­neys gen­er­al in send­ing a let­ter to Con­gress about the states’ PFAS-relat­ed pri­or­i­ties for the enact­ed-ver­sion of the fis­cal year 2021 NDAA. The let­ter request­ed that the final ver­sion of the fis­cal year 2021 NDAA include sev­er­al pro­vi­sions in the House-passed ver­sion of the fis­cal year 2021 NDAA. Most notably the let­ter urged Con­gress to include a require­ment that DOD meet or exceed the most strin­gent cleanup stan­dard for PFOS or PFOA con­t­a­m­i­na­tion between an enforce­able state stan­dard under Super­fund, an enforce­able fed­er­al stan­dard under Super­fund or a health advi­so­ry under the SDWA from DOD or Nation­al Guard activ­i­ties found in drink­ing water or in ground­wa­ter that is not cur­rent­ly used for drink­ing water. The let­ter also encour­aged Con­gress to act to reg­u­late PFAS chem­i­cals, includ­ing des­ig­nat­ing them as a haz­ardous sub­stance under the Super­fund statute.

  • Decem­ber 2020

    In Decem­ber 2020, the House and Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee released the con­fer­ence report for the fis­cal year 2021 NDAA, which the House passed on Decem­ber 8 and the Sen­ate passed on Decem­ber 11. On Jan­u­ary 1, 2021, the Sen­ate, after the House had ear­li­er done the same, over­rode the President’s veto of the bill and the fis­cal year 2021 NDAA became law. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, most of the House-passed pro­vi­sions that the attor­neys gen­er­al had request­ed be includ­ed in the final bill were not ulti­mate­ly includ­ed in the final fis­cal year 2021 NDAA. How­ev­er, the con­fer­ence report did include the pro­hi­bi­tion on DOD procur­ing items con­tain­ing PFAS chem­i­cals, includ­ing cook­ware, and car­pets and uphol­stery with stain-resis­tant coat­ing as request­ed by the attor­neys general.

Tox­ic Release Inventory

The TRI pro­gram pro­vides crit­i­cal infor­ma­tion to fed­er­al, state, and local gov­ern­ments about releas­es of tox­ic chem­i­cals into the envi­ron­ment. Com­pa­nies are required to report on an annu­al basis the amounts of chem­i­cals on the TRI released to the envi­ron­ment or man­aged as waste, as well as pol­lu­tion pre­ven­tion and recy­cling data on these chem­i­cals. The TRI pro­gram incen­tivizes com­pa­nies to improve their envi­ron­men­tal per­for­mance and aids in the devel­op­ment of appro­pri­ate reg­u­la­tions, guide­lines, and stan­dards for man­ag­ing tox­ic chemicals.

2017-2021

  • Decem­ber 2019

    In Decem­ber 2019, the EPA pub­lished an advanced notice of pro­posed rule­mak­ing seek­ing pub­lic input as it con­sid­ers adding cer­tain PFAS chem­i­cals to the TRI. The EPA’s pro­pos­al was issued before the fis­cal year 2020 NDAA was enacted. 

    The ANPRM request­ed pub­lic com­ments on which PFAS chem­i­cals should be eval­u­at­ed for list­ing on the TRI, how to list them, and what the appro­pri­ate report­ing thresh­olds would be giv­en the known harms PFAS chem­i­cals pose to human health and the environment.

  • Feb­ru­ary 2020

    In Feb­ru­ary 2020, New York Attor­ney Gen­er­al James led a coali­tion of eigh­teen states in fil­ing com­ments respond­ing to the EPA’s pro­pos­al. In their com­ments, the attor­neys gen­er­al not­ed that Con­gress, through pro­vi­sions to the NDAA, added cer­tain indi­vid­ual PFAS chem­i­cals to the TRI and estab­lished report­ing thresh­olds of 100 pounds for these chem­i­cals. The attor­neys gen­er­al com­mend­ed Con­gress for these reg­u­la­to­ry actions, but urged the EPA to pro­ceed with a rule­mak­ing to cov­er the entire fam­i­ly of PFAS chem­i­cals. The coali­tion rec­om­mend­ed the EPA add all PFAS chem­i­cals to the TRI as a sin­gle cat­e­go­ry list­ing as well as add indi­vid­ual PFAS chem­i­cals to the extent that they are not already list­ed pur­suant to the NDAA and the EPA has val­i­dat­ed a method to mea­sure the lev­el of each chem­i­cal. The attor­neys gen­er­al also urged the EPA low­er the TRI report­ing thresh­old to one pound for both indi­vid­ual PFAS chem­i­cals and the PFAS chem­i­cals cat­e­go­ry, con­sid­er­ing the threat these chem­i­cals pose to both human health and the environment.

New Mex­i­co

2017-2021

  • March 2019

    In March 2019, New Mex­i­co Attor­ney Gen­er­al Hec­tor Balderas filed a law­suit against the U.S. Air Force in fed­er­al dis­trict court in New Mex­i­co for PFAS con­t­a­m­i­na­tion of drink­ing water sup­plies near Can­non Air Force Base and Hol­lo­man Air Force Base in New Mex­i­co. The com­plaint alleges that the U.S. Air Force has sprayed fire­fight­ing foam con­tain­ing PFAS on the ground and tar­ma­cs in fire train­ing and actu­al fire­fight­ing events at the New Mex­i­co bases for more than 50 years, allow­ing PFAS to seep into the sur­round­ing ground­wa­ter in vio­la­tion of the New Mex­i­co Haz­ardous Waste Act. New Mex­i­co is seek­ing injunc­tive relief requir­ing abate­ment of ongo­ing vio­la­tions of the Act and a per­ma­nent injunc­tion for the Air Force to take all steps nec­es­sary to achieve per­ma­nent and con­sis­tent com­pli­ance with the Act.

  • May 2019

    In May 2019, New Mex­i­co Attor­ney Gen­er­al Balderas sent a let­ter to the U.S. Air Force express­ing the state’s con­tin­ued con­cern about PFAS con­t­a­m­i­na­tion at the Can­non and Hol­lo­man Air Force bases. The let­ter not­ed that the state’s sam­pling of Lake Hol­lo­man, near Hol­lo­man Air Force Base, had found PFAS con­t­a­m­i­na­tion far in excess of EPA’s health advi­so­ry lev­el. In order to pro­tect its cit­i­zens, the state demand­ed that the U.S. Air Force take imme­di­ate action to close Lake Hol­lo­man and restrict pub­lic access to the lake. Fur­ther, the state insist­ed in the let­ter that the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment make pub­lic all infor­ma­tion in its pos­ses­sion relat­ed to the risk of PFAS expo­sure in and around the Can­non and Hol­lo­man Air Force bases.

  • July 2019

    In July 2019, New Mex­i­co Attor­ney Gen­er­al Balderas filed a motion for a pre­lim­i­nary injunc­tion to require the U.S. Air Force to take steps to pro­tect peo­ple and the envi­ron­ment sur­round­ing the two Air Force bases. The motion request­ed that the U.S. Air Force expe­di­tious­ly turn over doc­u­ments asso­ci­at­ed with New Mexico’s March 2019 law­suit against the U.S. Air Force, con­duct research to ascer­tain the extent of the PFAS con­t­a­m­i­na­tion at the bases and take inter­im mea­sures to pro­tect human health near the bases. Attor­ney Gen­er­al Balderas stat­ed that the motion should be grant­ed because if New Mex­i­co is not pro­vid­ed the relief it seeks, irrepara­ble harm to pub­lic health, the envi­ron­ment and local busi­ness­es that depend on a non-tox­ic envi­ron­ment will con­tin­ue to occur.

  • June 2020

    In June 2020, the Judi­cial Pan­el on Mul­ti­dis­trict Lit­i­ga­tion (JPML) ordered trans­fer of the lit­i­ga­tion to the fed­er­al dis­trict court in South Car­oli­na. The JPML found that the lit­i­ga­tion should be trans­ferred because the New Mex­i­co lit­i­ga­tion shares com­mon fac­tu­al ques­tions with the actions pend­ing in South Carolina.

Reg­u­la­tion of New Uses for PFAS Chemicals

2017-2021

  • March 2020

    In March 2020, the EPA released a sup­ple­men­tal notice of pro­posed rule­mak­ing to pro­mul­gate a sig­nif­i­cant new use rule for long-chain PFAS chem­i­cals. The pro­pos­al would require importers of prod­ucts that con­tain long-chain PFAS in their sur­face coat­ings to receive EPA approval under the agency’s new use pro­ce­dures before import­ing the prod­ucts. This is a change from the agency’s orig­i­nal pro­pos­al released in 2015 that required importers to receive EPA approval for prod­ucts con­tain­ing long-chain PFAS any­where with­in the prod­uct, and not just in the sur­face coatings.

  • April 2020

    In April 2020, a coali­tion of 18 attor­neys gen­er­al led by New York Attor­ney Gen­er­al James filed com­ments urg­ing the EPA to broad­en its reg­u­la­tion of new uses for PFAS chem­i­cals. The coali­tion sug­gest­ed that the EPA should strength­en the rule by expand­ing the range of PFAS chem­i­cals cov­ered to all prod­ucts con­tain­ing long-chain PFAS, not only prod­ucts with PFAS sur­face coat­ings. The coali­tion also urged the agency to include review and reg­u­la­tion of both the import­ing and pro­cess­ing of prod­ucts con­tain­ing PFAS in the final rule and to not allow any exemp­tions to the report­ing require­ments for prod­ucts with min­i­mal amounts of PFAS.

  • July 2020

    In July 2020, the EPA released the final rule for sig­nif­i­cant new use of long-chain PFAS chem­i­cals. The final rule stopped short of adopt­ing many of the pro­tec­tive pro­vi­sions that the attor­neys gen­er­al urged be includ­ed in the final rule.

Reg­u­lat­ing PFAS Under the SDWA

2017-2021

  • March 2020

    In March 2020, the EPA issued a pre­lim­i­nary deci­sion to move for­ward with the reg­u­la­tion of two pre­vi­ous­ly unreg­u­lat­ed PFAS con­t­a­m­i­nants under the SDWA. In the pre­lim­i­nary deci­sion, the EPA con­clud­ed that the reg­u­la­tion of PFOA and PFOS presents a mean­ing­ful oppor­tu­ni­ty for reduc­ing health risks and that the pro­mul­ga­tion and enforce­ment of a nation­al drink­ing water stan­dard is in the pub­lic interest.

  • June 2020

    In June 2020, Cal­i­for­nia Attor­ney Gen­er­al Becer­ra, Penn­syl­va­nia Attor­ney Gen­er­al Shapiro, and Wis­con­sin Attor­ney Gen­er­al Josh Kaul led a coali­tion of 22 attor­neys gen­er­al in fil­ing com­ments on the pre­lim­i­nary deter­mi­na­tion urg­ing the EPA to fur­ther strength­en and expand reg­u­la­tion of PFAS chem­i­cals. In their com­ments, the coali­tion encour­aged the EPA to estab­lish drink­ing water stan­dards for oth­er PFAS in addi­tion to PFOA and PFOS, as well as eval­u­ate approach­es to reg­u­late PFAS as a class, in order to pro­tect pub­lic health and ensure safe drink­ing water. The coali­tion also urged the EPA to expe­dite the devel­op­ment of final drink­ing water stan­dards for PFOA and PFOS giv­en the severe health impact of PFAS con­t­a­m­i­na­tion and the urgent need to address this issue.

  • Jan­u­ary 2021

    In Jan­u­ary 2021, the EPA released a final deter­mi­na­tion on reg­u­lat­ing cer­tain PFAS chem­i­cals under the SDWA. The EPA deter­mined that it will reg­u­late PFOA and PFOS, but it did not strength­en or expand reg­u­la­tion of oth­er PFAS chem­i­cals as request­ed by the attor­neys general.