On January 10, 2020, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill targeting per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The bill, H.R. 535, passed with a 247-159 vote. Despite the threat of a veto by President Donald Trump, 24 Republicans voted for the bill. Significant items in the bill include:
- National regulation of some PFAS substances, specifically requiring the U.S. EPA to establish destruction and disposal guidance for a range of materials, including landfill leachate, biosolids, and “solid, liquid, or gas waste streams” from facilities that manufacture or use PFAS;
- Amend section 5 of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to require a ‘poses an unreasonable risk’ finding and use prohibition in response to any new chemical notification for a PFAS, for a period of five years;
- Create a rule under section 8 of TSCA requiring manufacturers of PFAS to submit relevant data;
- Issue guidance for minimizing the use of PFAS-containing firefighting foam; and
- Revise its Safer Choice standard to require that pots, pans and cooking utensils labelled with the program’s seal do not contain them.
Additionally, the House voted to approve a number of amendments to the bill, including:
- Adding stain-/water-/grease-resistant coatings that are not subject to requirements under section 409 of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to the list of products eligible for a voluntary label indicating an absence of PFASs;
- Requiring the EPA to develop a national risk-communication strategy to inform the public about PFAS hazards;
- Expanding Safer Choice to include carpets, rugs, clothing and upholstered furniture that do not contain PFAS; and
- Preventing implementation of the measure’s provisions until after the EPA certifies that its PFAS action plan is completed.
An amendment also removed the provision which would have directed the EPA to designate PFAS as hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA or Superfund).
Although at this time it appears unlikely that the Senate will take up the bill, the bi-partisan nature of the passage of the bill in the House also indicates that this issue is of concern to law makers on both sides of the aisle. Furthermore, some large waste companies are lobbying on PFAS, and waste industry trade groups indicate that the issue will be at the forefront in 2020.