PFAS And Presidential Politics

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As the political season begins in earnest with the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, PFAS is one subject for which regulatory action already under consideration may be accelerated if the White House changes hands from Republican to Democrat.

According to Biden’s “Plan to Secure Environmental Justice and Equitable Economic Opportunity,” three steps that a Biden administration would take are:

  • setting enforceable limits for PFAS In the Safe Drinking Water Act (“SDWA”),
  • designating “PFAS” as hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act (“CERCLA”), and
  • accelerating toxicity studies and research on PFAS.

Of course, in addition to being parts of a plan of an administration that may or may not be elected, each of these are among steps that the current administration’s United States Environmental Protection Agency is acting on, and/or has been considering acting on, under its 2019 PFAS Action Plan.

In particular, according to its PFAS Action Plan: Program Update (February 2020), “Trump’s EPA” is, among other actions:

  • proposing to regulate PFOA and PFOS under the SDWA,
  • “moving forward with the regulatory process for proposing to designate PFOA and PFOS as hazardous substances under CERCLA,” and
  • “currently researching the human health effects of seven of the most common PFAS,” including GenX and PFBS (for which EPA has developed draft toxicity assessments), and PFDA, PFNA, PFHxA, PFHxS, and PFBA (for which EPA is conducting an Integrated Risk Information System (“IRIS”) assessment).

Therefore, while PFAS is on the radar and agenda of both parties to the upcoming election, the real question is how aggressively a new Democratic administration might move forward on these issues compared to the existing administration, including as to when and if regulatory action is actually taken, and the degree, for example, as to the number of substances regulated and at what limits.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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