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AG Nessel Leads Coalition of 20 Attorneys General Urging Congress to Take Strong Stance on PFAS in Military Budget

LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, joined by a coalition of 19 other attorneys general, sent a letter today to Congressional leadership urging them to include protective provisions already passed by the House of Representatives in the final version of the fiscal year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

In its letter, the coalition calls on Congressional committee leaders to protect service members, defense communities and the general public from PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) contamination associated with defense installations when they finalize the NDAA. 

The letter was sent to House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith and Ranking Member Mac Thornberry, along with Senate Committee on Armed Services Chairman James M. Inhofe and Ranking Member Jack Reed.

PFAS contamination in groundwater and surface water has been identified at dozens of sites in Michigan, including near military installations. Exposure to PFAS has been shown to correlate to adverse health effects including developmental defects, kidney cancer, liver damage, and impacts on the thyroid and immune system. Attorney General Nessel has made the protection of drinking water and the environment one of her top priorities, and she has filed lawsuits against manufacturers of PFAS and PFAS-containing products to hold those companies accountable for the injuries and damages they profited from.

“I am fighting here in Michigan to get toxic PFAS out of our drinking water and our natural resources, and the other attorneys general who signed this comment letter are fighting the same battle in their own jurisdictions,” Nessel said. “Congress has the authority to further protect our citizens from these forever chemicals, and our leaders in Washington need to hold the Department of Defense’s feet to the fire to prevent contamination of our water by PFAS.”

PFAS chemicals are used in a variety of consumer products including nonstick cookware; waterproofing treatments for fabrics, carpeting and upholstery; food packaging; and firefighting foam. PFAS do not break down easily in the environment, which is why they are called “forever chemicals.” 

When the U.S. House of Representatives finalized its version of the NDAA, it included the following protective provisions that the coalition calls on Congressional leadership to include in the final version:

  • Require the Department of Defense to abide by state standards when removing or remediating PFAS, when those state standards are more stringent than federal standards, and regardless of whether a cooperative agreement is in place;
  • Provide additional funding and authorization for PFAS cleanup and research into development of safe PFAS disposal mechanisms and alternatives to PFAS-laden firefighting aqueous film-forming foam;
  • Require the Department of Defense to provide PFAS blood testing for all interested service members;
  • Limit what PFAS-containing products the Department of Defense can procure; and
  • Require the Department of Defense to engage in meaningful stakeholder communication, including promptly publishing results of drinking, surface or groundwater PFAS testing.

Joining Attorney General Nessel in sending this letter to Congress are the attorneys general for Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Guam, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.

A copy of the letter is available here

Click here to view a copy of the July 30, 2019 letter to Congressional leadership, which is referenced in the coalition’s latest letter.