The U.S. House of Representatives on July 21 passed the William M. (Mac) Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 (NDAA). While the majority of the bill, H.R. 6395, is unrelated to the water sector, there are several provisions related to the handling and cleanup of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, a chemical class known more commonly as PFAS.

One such provision requires the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) to use a separate source of funding for PFAS cleanup than the Military Munitions Response Program. Another provision requires DOD to expand its research base for finding PFAS-chemical alternatives for firefighting foam as well as how to better dispose of PFAS. Additionally, the bill includes several research grants for these endeavors. Other provisions relate to studying the quality of water and wastewater infrastructure on military bases and authorizing the construction of a wastewater treatment facility in Twentynine Palms, California.

A PFAS-related amendment to the bill was passed in committee. The amendment, offered by Rep. Slotkin (D-MI), required DOD to use the strictest of guidelines for remediation and removal of PFAS. The amendment passed on a party line roll call vote with no defections.

Several provisions also were added by amendments on the floor. Those agreed to by roll call vote are noted below with the vote breakdown.

  • #248 proposed by Rep. Levin (D-MI) (with Rep. Tonko (D-NY), Rep. Khanna (D-CA) Rep. Kildee (D-MI), and Rep. Welch (D-VT)) places a moratorium on incineration of PFAS by DOD until the U.S. Secretary of Defense creates regulations for safe disposal.
  • #481 proposed by Rep. Levin (D-MI) (with Rep. Dean (D-PA), Rep. Posey (R-FL), Rep. Fitzpatrick (R-PA), and Rep. Kildee (D-MI)) requires public disclosure of PFAS testing on military bases.
  • #583 proposed by Rep. Delgado (D-NY) (with Rep. Speier (D-CA), Rep. Gallagher (R-WI), Rep. Kildee (D-MI), Rep. Welch (D-VT), Rep. Rouda (D-CA), Rep. Dingell (D-MI), Rep. Fitzpatrick (R-PA), and Rep. Pappas (D-NH)) requires manufacturers to disclose all discharges of PFAS over 100 lb. It also adds several types of PFAS to the Toxics Release Inventory Program.

The overall bill was sponsored by Armed Services Committee Chair Adam Smith (D-WA) and named for the retiring Ranking Member of the U.S. House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX) who co-sponsored the bill when it was introduced. The final vote on the bill was highly bipartisan both in votes in favor and votes against; the final tally in the House was 295 yeas and 125 nays.

The House bill is likely to go to conference in coordinate with the Republican Senate-crafted version S. 4049, which is currently being amended in the Senate.

Contributions from Michael Bradley, WEF Intern

Get the full text of the bill and track its progress via the Library of Congress.

H.R. 6395

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