By Stephanie Grumet and Ben Bassett ,
The year 2022 will mark an inflexion point for the growing number of US state and Federal regulations impacting the class of man– made chemicals known as perand polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) chemicals. These chemicals have been commonly used for decades in the US to extinguish fires, create non stick coatings on pans, provide stain resistance to clo thes and boots, establish grease barriers in food packaging, and more. PFAS compounds are both mobile in the environment and incredibly durable, rarely breaking down, earning the moniker of “forever chemicals”. There are several thousand compounds known as PFAS.
Now, the entire class of PFAS chemicals is under serious scrutiny from policymakers, environmental groups and others, facing increasing regulation, hazardous substance designations, mounting multidistrict litigation and statelevel bans. And unlike most issues in Washington, there is quite a bit of bipartisan concern in Congress, since PFAS compounds are found in every US state, and do not discriminate by political party. To wit, over 50 bills have been introduced in Congress by both Republicans and Democrats between 2021 and 2022 to attempt to address PFAS.
PFAS has become characteri s s ed as a health crisis akin to asbestos years ago. At a time of partisan gridlock, addressing PFAS contamination, cleanup and remediation enjoys support from both sides of the aisle. PFAS are so widely found that the regulatory developments that are set to be proposed and finali ed in the coming years will affect a myriad of industries, locations and constituencies.
In short order, the US Environmental Protection Agency ( EPA) is likely to formally propose classifying perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) and perfluoro octane Sulfonate (PFOS), the two most common PFAS compounds, as hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act (C ERCLA). This action could occur as early as end of April of this year or could be delayed until June. It will likely be followed by a proposal to regulate PFAS under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), which governs transport and disposal of materials. We also expect EPA to propose national drinking water standards later this year and take steps to begin to regulate PFAS air emissions before the end of President Joe Biden’s first term in January 2025.