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Congress Passes Legislation to Address Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)

Last week Congress passed The Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA; H.R. 6395). This year’s NDAA contains a number of provisions that address problems relating Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS), a summary of which is below. One of these provisions is the text of a bill the IAFC endorsed, The Guaranteeing Equipment Safety for Firefighters Act (S. 2525/H.R. 7560). 

The FY 2021 NDAA contains the following PFAS related provisions:

  • The Guaranteeing Equipment Safety for Firefighters Act: this legislation requires the National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST) to study the concentration of PFAS in PPE and authorizes an ongoing grant program to fund research into PFAS alternatives for gear. The IAFC thanks Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Cory Gardner (R-CO), and Representative Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) for introducing and moving this legislation forward.
  • Authorizes the Secretary of Defense to create a prize for the development of alternatives to PFAS foam to spur such research.
  • Directs the Secretary of Defense to conduct a survey of technologies available to facilitate the phase-out of PFAS foam. This survey would review hangar flooring systems; firefighting agent delivery systems; containment systems; and other relevant technologies.   
  • Directs the Office of Science and Technology Policy to develop an interagency working group to coordinate federal PFAS research and development activities. This working group is charged to within a year to develop and make publicly available a strategic plan for federal support for PFAS research and development.
  • Directs the Secretary of Defense to work through NIST to promote research into alternatives to PFAS foam.
  • Directs the Secretary of Defense to work with the Secretary of Agriculture to notify agricultural operations near military installations or National Guard facilities, where PFAS is detected in the groundwater. This provision also requires the Secretary of Defense to submit a report to the House and Senate Agriculture Committees on the status of these notifications.
  • Provides the CDC with $15 million to study the health implications of PFAS contamination in drinking water.

The President has threatened to veto the NDAA due to Section 230, which protects tech platforms from lawsuits over most third-party content. However, it is very likely that a veto would be overridden. Especially since the House passed the NDAA by a vote of 335 to 78 and the Senate passed it by 84 to 13.

Ryan Woodward is a government relations manager with the IAFC.

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