Padilla, Shaheen Introduce Bill to Limit Air Pollution from Toxic PFAS Chemicals

New legislation adds certain PFAS chemicals to the list of Hazardous Air Pollutants regulated under the Clean Air Act

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senators Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) introduced the Prevent Release of Toxics Emissions, Contamination, and Transfer Act, or the PROTECT Act. The legislation would add certain PFAS chemicals to the Environmental Protection Agency’s list of Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs), thereby requiring their regulation under the Clean Air Act. This would expand the number of facilities that would have to adopt technology to reduce PFAS emissions.

The PROTECT Act is cosponsored by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). Rep. Haley Stevens (D-Mich.) leads a version of the bill in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“Toxic PFAS chemicals are polluting our air, our water, our food, our military bases, and our communities,” said Senator Padilla. “We need an all-hands-on-deck approach to tackling toxic PFAS contamination, and that includes regulating air emissions caused by these chemicals. I’m proud to introduce legislation with Senator Shaheen to limit industrial air emissions from PFAS. Tackling PFAS contamination is critical to ensure that all communities, especially those who live near these industrial facilities, can live pollution free.”

“PFAS contamination is a pervasive problem that has long impacted communities across New Hampshire and throughout the nation, finding its way into our water supplies, soil, air and more. Combating the full scope of this issue demands an all-hand-on deck approach, which is precisely what the PROTECT Act would help us establish,” said Senator Shaheen. “For years I’ve prioritized policies that address remediation, prevention and research on the effects of PFAS, and I’m glad to join with Senator Padilla to expand efforts to keep our air clean and safe from PFAS pollution. Our legislation would require the Environmental Protection Agency to list PFOA and PFOS – two of the most prevalent PFAS chemicals – as hazardous air pollutants under the Clean Air Act, require standards for major sources of PFAS emissions and provide support for developing technologies for detection and control of air emissions polluted by PFAS. As our understanding of the full scale of PFAS exposure expands, so should our response, and I’ll continue to push forward legislative solutions that address this problem so Granite State families and Americans across the country have faith in the safety of the water, air and other natural surroundings in their communities.”

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) – a class of chemicals known as “forever chemicals” – can accumulate and stay in the human body and environment for long periods of time. According to the EPA, there is evidence that exposure to PFAS can lead to adverse health outcomes, including effects on the immune system, cancer, thyroid hormone disruption, and low infant birth rates.

The Environmental Working Group recently identified nearly 30,000 potential industrial dischargers of PFAS into the air and water. However, there are currently no restrictions on industrial PFAS discharges under the Clean Water Act or the Clean Air Act, leaving communities vulnerable to the devastating impacts of PFAS pollution. While it is well documented how toxic PFAS chemicals are prevalent in the water supply, PFAS are also emitted into the air.

The EPA has acknowledged that “air emissions of PFAS from industrial sources is now recognized as a significant route for PFAS releases to the environment and is evidenced by deposition as well as their presence in rainwater.” Yet PFAS air emissions are not regulated under the Clean Air Act or any other anti-pollution law. Just this week, the EPAreleased their comprehensive national strategy to confront PFAS pollution, which outlines EPA’s efforts to build the technical foundation on PFAS air emissions to evaluate mitigation options, including listing certain PFAS as hazardous air pollutants. Senators Padilla and Shaheen’s legislation lists PFOA, PFOS, PFBS, and GenX as hazardous air pollutants under Section 112(b) of the Clean Air Act and directs the EPA create a list of categories of major sources and area sources that emit PFAS within 2 years, and gives EPA a 5-year deadline to finalize the subsequent regulations.

Adding PFAS to the EPA’s HAPs list would build upon work done by states to limit air emissions from industrial facilities and greatly expand the number of facilities that would have to adopt technology to reduce PFAS emissions.

Senator Padilla has made addressing PFAS contamination a priority. Earlier this year, heintroduced two bills, the Clean Water for Military Families Act and the Filthy Fifty Act, directing the Department of Defense to identify and clean up PFAS at U.S. military installations with some of the highest detections across the country. As of May 2020, California has 62 military facilities with a known or suspected PFAS release.

Read the text of the PROTECT Act HERE.

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