Biden roadmap signals new era of PFAS regulation


On October 18, the Biden administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced new plans for regulation of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The announcements are unprecedented in their breadth and depth of PFAS regulation—covering eight agencies and a range of issues, including PFAS in drinking water, the country’s food supply and consumer products. The announcements follow increased scrutiny of PFAS over the past five years under the Obama and Trump administrations and by a number of state governments. Much of the prior focus on PFAS has come from EPA and its state counterparts addressing a small group of intensely studied, environmentally ubiquitous, long-chain PFAS, including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), which have not been manufactured and sold in the U.S. since 2015 and 2000, respectively.

The Biden administration’s interagency regulatory effort will include the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Department of Transportation (DOT), Department of Defense (DOD), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS), White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), and EPA. EPA will continue to take the lead on a number of efforts to address PFAS, which were announced on Monday concurrently with the administration’s PFAS plans as part of an updated PFAS Roadmap. EPA’s focus will include PFOA and PFOS but also will shift to dozens of other PFAS chemicals, including many short-chain PFAS that remain on the market in the U.S. The range of actions on PFAS will include accelerated designations of PFAS chemicals as hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), widespread sampling for dozens of PFAS in Americans’ drinking water supplies and a number of new toxicological studies of PFAS.

EPA’s PFAS Roadmap includes, most notably:

Establishing national primary drinking water standards for PFOS and PFOA with associated monitoring requirements and evaluation of additional PFAS chemicals.

Developing and proposing a rulemaking to designate PFOA and PFOS as CERCLA hazardous substances by summer 2023, as well as issuing an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking seeking public input on whether to similarly designate other PFAS chemicals.

Enhancing PFAS reporting under the Toxics Release Inventory by closing loopholes and removing exemptions and exclusions for toxic chemical reporting by spring 2022.

Finalizing a PFAS reporting rule under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Section 8 by winter 2022 in order to obtain a more thorough assessment of PFAS sources and quantities nationwide.

Publishing the final toxicity assessments for PFAS chemicals, including short-chain PFAS, GenX, PFBA, PFHxA, PFHxS, PFNA and PFDA by fall 2021.

Restricting PFAS discharges from industrial sources via Effluent Limitations Guidelines (ELGs)—which establish national technology-based regulatory limits on pollutants discharged into municipal treatment works and surface waters—by 2022.

Reducing PFAS discharges and increasing PFAS monitoring via the existing National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting regime.

Publishing final recommended ambient water quality criteria for PFAS by winter 2022 for aquatic life and fall 2024 for human health.

Developing the foundation for future designation of certain PFAS as Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs) under the Clean Air Act.

Undertaking miscellaneous research and development of technology for assessing and remediating PFAS in the environment.

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~sLexology, 20 October 2021