The FY 2021 omnibus appropriations bill passed by Congress Monday night provides nearly $300 million for new investments to address the regulation and cleanup of the toxic “forever chemicals” known as PFAS.
Spending for the Department of Defense, Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Geological Survey and Food and Drug Administration included in the package will expand PFAS cleanup efforts by the Pentagon, provide the EPA with funding for its regulatory and cleanup priorities, direct agencies to expand data collection and reporting efforts, and direct the FDA to review the safety of PFAS in food packaging.
“We applaud House and Senate appropriators for once again making the PFAS contamination crisis a priority,” said Colin O’Neil, legislative director at EWG. “President-elect Biden will have much work ahead of him to address the ballooning PFAS contamination crisis when he takes office. However, this is but a small down payment on what is truly needed to reduce and remediate PFAS pollution. We hope the Biden administration’s budget request to Congress will reflect the true cost of addressing the PFAS contamination crisis.”
Here is a summary of the major PFAS-related provisions in the FY 2021 omnibus appropriations bill:
- The Defense appropriations bill provides more than $142 million in additional funding for the Defense Department to clean up PFAS contamination at active military installations, for research and development funding for PFAS remediation and disposal, and to phase out PFAS-based firefighting foams.
- Overall, funding for the defense environmental restoration accounts, which pays for discretionary cleanup efforts at military sites, increased by $94 million to $1.5 billion, compared to last year. However, the dedicated line-item funding for PFAS within the Defense appropriations bill was slightly lower than the $172 million in last year’s bill, which included $100 million in PFAS funding for the Air Force’s environmental restoration account.
- The bill directs the secretary of defense to report to Congress on costs associated with investigating and cleaning up PFAS at military sites, including the estimated costs after FY 2021.
Military Construction and Veterans Affairs
- The bill provides $100 million for the Defense Department to increase the pace of cleanup of PFOA and PFOS – the two most notorious PFAS compounds – at closed military installations, an increase of $40 million compared to last year’s bill.
Interior and Environment
- The bill provides $49 million for the EPA’s scientific, regulatory and cleanup work on PFAS, $10 million above President Trump’s budget request.
- It also provides $2.7 million for the U.S. Geological Survey’s efforts to monitor waterways for PFAS.
Department of Agriculture and the FDA
- The bill contains a provision directing the FDA to review the safety of PFAS chemicals in food packaging.
- It also contains a provision requiring the USDA to help dairy producers affected by PFAS contamination.
Health and Human Services
- The bill includes $1 million in grants to help health professionals better understand health impacts of PFAS exposure and best practices for treatment.
President-elect Biden has pledged to make the PFAS pollution crisis a top priority. He has said he would designate PFOA and PFOS as hazardous substances under the federal Superfund law, which will accelerate the cleanup process at military bases and ensure that polluters pay their fair share of cleanup costs. He has also pledged to end the use of PFAS in many everyday consumer products and to quickly establish a national drinking water standard for PFAS in tap water.