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Governor Whitmer, 14 Governors Send Bipartisan Letter to Senate & House Armed Services Committee Addressing PFAS Contamination in FY2020 NDAA

Governor Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, Governor John Carney of Delaware, Governor Roy Cooper of North Carolina, Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York, Governor Mike DeWine of Ohio, Governor Tony Evers of Wisconsin, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico , Governor Jay Inslee of Washington, Governor Ralph Northam of Virginia, Governor Phil Scott of Vermont,  Governor Chris Sununu of New Hampshire, Governor Phil Murphy of New Jersey, Governor Tim Walz of Minnesota and Governor Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania, all signed onto the letter. 

LANSING, Mich. – Today, Governor Gretchen Whitmer, along with 14 governors sent a bipartisan letter to both the United States Senate and House Armed Services Committees highlighting several key provisions related to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act and asking for those provisions to be included in the final legislation. 

“All Michiganders deserve to know that we are prioritizing their health and are working diligently to protect their drinking water,” said Governor Whitmer. “While Michigan has become a leader when it comes to identifying and cleaning up PFAS contamination, it’s clear that federal action is needed to further address PFAS, including contamination in and around military sites.” 

At current and former military bases across the country, firefighting foam containing PFAS has been in use for many years. In many of these locations, PFAS have leached into groundwater, surface water, and nearby private wells used for drinking water. According to the Government Accountability Office, there are at least 401 military sites with known or suspected PFAS contamination. 

The signing governors are urging the development of legislation that includes the strongest provisions from both the House and Senate bills, including the following that would: 

  • Require EPA to set an enforceable, nationwide drinking water standard under the Safe Drinking Water Act for PFOA and PFOS within two years of enactment, while preserving states’ authority to enact their own, more stringent standards.  
  • Require the EPA to list PFAS chemicals as hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) within one year. 
  • Require the EPA to revise the list of toxic pollutants under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (commonly known as the Clean Water Act) to include PFAS and publish effluent and pretreatment standards.  
  • Phase out the use of PFAS in aqueous film forming foam (AFFF) as quickly as possible.  
  • Urge the DoD to finalize cooperative agreements with states and partner with governors to test, monitor, remove, and remediate PFAS contamination originating from DoD activities, including at decommissioned military installations and National Guard facilities. Require that if a cooperative agreement is not reached within one year of the request from a state, the Secretary of Defense must report to Congress with an explanation of why an agreement has not been reached. Remediation should satisfy both federal and state/local remediation targets. 
  • Grant the National Guard Bureau access to specific environmental remediation program funding in FY 2020. 
  • Authorize the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to develop advanced testing methods capable of detecting PFAS, and to conduct nationwide sampling for these chemicals - focusing first on areas near drinking water with known or suspected PFAS contamination.   
  • Require the DoD to treat and clean PFAS-contaminated water used for agricultural purposes. 
  • Require public disclosure, as part of Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) annual reports, when environmental releases of about 200 PFAS chemicals occur – including PFOS and PFOA. 

The following governors are evaluating PFAS responses in their own states, including in some cases developing or setting drinking water standards for PFAS, and deploying state funds to test, investigate, and remediate PFAS contamination caused by government and industrial use.