October 8, 2020

Young, Shaheen Lead Bipartisan Letter to House & Senate Armed Services Committee Leadership Urging Inclusion of PFAS Provisions in Final FY21 NDAA

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Todd Young (R-Ind.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) led a bipartisan letter on behalf of 20 Senators yesterday to Senate and House Armed Services Committee leadership urging the inclusion of several provisions in the final fiscal year (FY) 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to prevent and address per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination. The NDAA is annual legislation that authorizes the United States’ national defense programs and priorities for the coming year. 


In their letter, the Senators underscored the adverse health effects tied to PFAS chemicals, two of which – perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) – have emerged as widespread contaminants to the drinking water sources of military bases across the country due to their use in aqueous firefighting foam (AFFF) used by the military. They cited the Department of Defense’s PFAS Task Force report updating the count of military installations impacted by these materials from 401 to 651. The Senators also expressed concern about occupational exposure for firefighters in particular, who are more exposed to these chemicals through the use of firefighting foam, and also potentially through their personal protective equipment (PPE). They argued that the serious health implications tied to these chemicals coupled with unknown long-term health effects demands action from Congress and the attention of the Department of Defense. 


The Senators wrote, “We acknowledge the ongoing efforts of the Department of Defense (DOD); however, additional action is needed to address the immediate concerns of citizens near these military bases who are desperate to know what exposure to these contaminants means for their health and the health of their families.”


The Senators closed their letter by urging the conference committee to include a measure that modifies the authority for environmental restoration projects of the National Guard and provides technical corrections to ensure restoration of contamination by PFOS and PFOA, as well as a provision that would require the Secretary of Defense to evaluate available firefighting technologies or substances to be adapted for use by DOD to facilitate the phase-out of firefighting foam that contains PFAS chemicals.


Their letter can be read in full here.


In addition to Senators Young and Shaheen, the letter was signed by U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W. Va.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.).