House Passes Measure Tackling PFAS on Military Bases (1)

July 21, 2020, 6:51 PM; Updated: July 21, 2020, 10:02 PM

The House passed a defense authorization bill Tuesday afternoon that would require the Pentagon to do more to address so-called forever chemicals at military bases and protect the health of servicemembers exposed to the toxins.

Lawmakers approved 295-125 the $740.5 billion fiscal 202 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 6395), with a half dozen amendments related to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances known as PFAS.

The White House today issued a statement saying it would recommend President Donald Trump veto H.R. 6395 in its current form.

The GOP-controlled Senate on Tuesday resumed consideration of its version of the authorization bill (S. 4049).

PFAS Measures

The PFAS measures in the House bill would:

  • Increase funding from $10 million to $15 million in fiscal 2021 for a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study on PFAS;
  • Require PFAS manufacturers to disclose all discharges of “forever” chemicals over 100 pounds to the Environmental Protection Agency for inclusion in the Toxics Release Inventory;
  • Ensure service members do not have to take on additional costs of blood testing related to PFAS exposures;
  • Put a moratorium on incinerating PFAS chemicals by Defense until it finalizes guidance for safe disposal, a requirement of the FY20 defense bill;
  • Require online publication of PFAS testing results for military installations and former defense sites; and
  • Direct the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the National Institute of Standards and Technology to do a study on using PFAS chemicals in firefighting equipment and risks firefighters face.

The House didn’t vote on a more ambitious PFAS amendment filed by Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) that would direct the EPA to set a safe drinking water limit for PFAS contamination. The Rules Committee didn’t include that amendment in the rule it approved for consideration of the NDAA.

New Wilderness

The House also adopted amendments to the NDAA from Democrats that would create new wilderness areas in California, Colorado and Washington state and expand protections for public lands and waters.

One of those measures also would withdraw 1 million acres of federal lands around Grand Canyon National Park from new mining claims. The House already has passed those wilderness and Grand Canyon bills separately, but Democratic lawmakers are looking to pressure the Senate into enacting them into law by inserting them into must-pass legislation.

House Natural Resources Chairman Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) praised the inclusion of conservation measures in the legislation.

“Defense bills can and should be conservation bills, and this year’s NDAA is an especially good example of the good we can do for our environment when we work together and think strategically about the nation’s interest,” he said in a statement.

(Updated in headline and first two paragraphs to reflect final passage.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Kellie Lunney in Washington at klunney@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Gregory Henderson at ghenderson@bloombergindustry.com; Rebecca Baker at rbaker@bloombergindustry.com

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