PFAS (Per-and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances)

Minnesota is seeking public comment on the development of new rules to implement recent state legislation prohibiting offers to sell, the sale, and/or distribution of any product or product component containing any intentionally added per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)in the state of Minnesota, regardless of whether the product is intended for industrial, commercial, or consumer use. The law (Minnesota Session Law – 2023, Chapter 60, Article 3, Section 21, codified as Minn. Stat. § 116.943, and referred to as “Amara’s Law”) casts a wide regulation net and falls in line with Minnesota’s history of regulations addressing intentionally added PFAS in products. The law includes a provision that allows for the use of PFAS in such products, if the use is currently unavoidable, and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s (MPCA) current public comment period is seeking input on what uses of intentionally added PFAS will qualify as “currently unavoidable uses.”Continue Reading MPCA Seeks Comments on Currently Unavoidable Uses of Intentionally Added PFAS

With the publication of two new proposed rules on February 8, 2024, EPA has taken the first step under its PFAS Strategic Roadmap to bring PFAS compounds under the umbrella of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (“RCRA”).  These proposals are designed to accomplish both short- and long-term objectives.  In the short-term, EPA’s proposals will make PFAS compounds subject to corrective action authorities at RCRA hazardous waste facilities.  This means that if a release occurs at such facilities, the owner or operator must investigate whether the contamination includes PFAS and, if so, remediate the contamination along with other hazardous constituents. In the long term, EPA’s proposals set the stage to list nine PFAS compounds as RCRA hazardous wastes. Continue Reading EPA Sets the Stage to List PFAS as a Hazardous Waste

As regulation of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) continues to develop at the state and federal level, an issue of significant concern is the potential for product packaging made with PFAS to impart or “leach” those PFAS into the products contained within. In a prior article in this space, Taft’s Environmental practice group outlined a recent EPA order requiring a manufacturer of fluorinated high-density polyethylene (HDPE) containers designed to hold various liquid products to cease producing such packaging using PFAS, out of concern for the risk of PFAS leaching into the products. Now, at least one state legislature is taking up the issue in an effort to prevent products containing PFAS as a result of leaching from entering commerce in that state.Continue Reading Proposed Vermont Legislation Seeks to Address PFAS Risks Associated with Fluorinated HDPE Packaging

Environmental non-profit Tennessee Riverkeeper has filed a Clean Water Act (CWA) citizen suit against the City of Lebanon alleging unlawful discharges of multiple per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from the City’s inactive municipal landfill. Riverkeeper acknowledges that the landfill has a valid NPDES permit that authorizes the discharge of treated leachate, but it nevertheless alleges that the discharges constitute a CWA violation because none of the PFAS are specifically listed as authorized “pollutants” in the facility’s permit.

Section 301(a) of the CWA generally prohibits the discharge of “any pollutant” from a point source into a water of the united states, except pursuant to a permit or in compliance with certain listed section of the CWA. “Pollutant” is defined expansively as “dredged spoil, solid waste, incinerator residue, sewage, garbage, sewage sludge, munitions, chemical wastes, biological materials, radioactive materials, heat, wrecked or discarded equipment, rock, sand, cellar dirt and industrial, municipal, and agricultural waste discharged into water.” 33 U.S.C.A. § 1362. Thus, potential liability is broad. But it is certainly not unlimited. In cases like this, where the defendant has a permit and is not alleged to be in violation of any specific discharge limit, a citizen suit claim could face a number of potential hurdles.Continue Reading Closed Tennessee Landfill Sued Under the Clean Water Act for Alleged PFAS in Permitted Discharges

On December 1, 2023, the U.S. EPA ordered Inhance Technologies LLC (Inhance) to stop producing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) as part of its fluorination of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) containers. According to the EPA, Inhance’s fluorination process enhances the barrier properties of plastic containers, but produces nine different types of PFAS.

Fluorinated HDPE containers are used for storing household products, pesticides, and other industrial goods. In 2019, the drinking water of the town Easton, Massachusetts, tested positive for PFOA, a type of PFAS, and was traced back to a mosquitocide used by state officials. In September 2020, the EPA determined that the PFAS found in the mosquitocide emanated from the product’s HDPE plastic container, which was fluorinated by Inhance. EPA later concluded that PFOA and other PFAS chemicals in containers fluorinated by Inhance can migrate into liquid products and continue migrating over time.Continue Reading US EPA Seeks to Eliminate PFAS From HDPE Plastic Containers

In an August 2023 report on per- and polyfluoroalkyl (“PFAS”) substance uses, the U.S. Department of Defense (“DoD”) argues that phasing out PFAS production may harm national security. This report comes after 3M announced it will phase out production of PFAS and PFAS-containing products by 2025. The report to the Committee on Armed Services of the House of Representatives and the Senate outlines the uses of PFAS that DoD believes are critical to domestic production of weapons and which DOD argues will be challenging and costly to find alternatives for.Continue Reading U.S. Department of Defense Warns Against Overbroad Regulation of PFAS

For several years, many in the legal and environmental communities have wondered what the reach of enforcement by the EPA might be if the agency were to determine that per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) were hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA, or, more informally known as Superfund). EPA proposed Superfund designations in 2022 for two PFAS (perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS)). Superfund provides a mechanism for the EPA to force the parties responsible for the contamination at a designated Superfund site to either perform the cleanups with EPA oversight or reimburse the EPA if the EPA leads the cleanup activities. To date, EPA has identified nearly 200 Superfund sites where PFAS are present.

In October, as reported by Inside EPA, EPA’s chief of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Office’s cleanup programs branch, Charlotte Mooney, spoke about PFAS at Superfund sites at the Association of State and Territorial Solid Waste Management Officials’ annual conference. During that session, Mooney confirmed that the EPA’s proposed designation of PFAS as a hazardous substance could lead the agency to reopen sites where cleanup had previously been considered complete. Mooney stated the analysis would be done on a “case-by-case basis” but the criteria for that analysis has not been disclosed to date.Continue Reading EPA Official Indicates PFAS Hazardous Substance Designation Under Superfund May Lead to Reopening Past Cleanup Actions

On November 17, the EPA paused its prior approval of up to 100 shipments of wastes containing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from the Chemours Netherlands B.V. facility in Dordrecht to the Chemours Fayetteville Works plant in North Carolina. The North Carolina Chemours plant has been the source of previous pollution.

This news comes on the heels of a new analysis of EPA data showing that over the last five years at least 60 million pounds of PFAS waste has been disposed of in the US. According to the author of the new analysis, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (Peer), the 60m pounds estimate is likely to be a “dramatic” undercount because PFAS waste is mostly “unregulated” in the US and companies are typically not required to record its disposal. As part of its analysis, Peer identified over 10,300 PFAS waste shipments between June 2018 and June 2023.Continue Reading US Continues Disposing of PFAS Waste Despite Known Dangers

As the EPA nears finalizing recently proposed environmental regulations related to per- and polyfluoroalky substances (“PFAS”), corporate America waits with bated breath.

Businesses involved in the manufacturing and sale of PFAS or PFAS-containing products are closely monitoring the legal landscape surrounding PFAS litigation. With the pending multibillion-dollar settlements between 3M, DuPont-related entities, and U.S. public water providers, the public is finally becoming more aware of PFAS. Public sentiment is now turning towards holding companies traditionally associated with making PFAS (such as 3M and DuPont) responsible for addressing the environmental and public health concerns related to PFAS.

There is increasing concern, however, toward keeping a clear line between the manufacturers of PFAS, who understood the damage their products would cause, and the downstream businesses who purchased and used PFAS in their products. Often, these downstream businesses were unaware that their products contained PFAS, or they failed to fully appreciate all the risks associated with using PFAS in their products, because the makers of the PFAS historically withheld or covered up that information. Thus, over the last 70 years, PFAS made its way into thousands of products throughout the stream of commerce, including cosmetics, carpets, food packaging, and clothing, with many of the companies involved in making those products not realizing that PFAS might be involved.Continue Reading Surge in PFAS Litigation Raises Bankruptcy Fears Among Downstream Users of PFAS

Less than one month ago, EPA released its final reporting and recordkeeping requirements for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). A Taft PFAS Insights post on that rule is available here. Now, just a few short weeks after issuing that rule, which imposed a one-time reporting requirement for PFAS uses, production volumes, manufacturing byproducts, disposal practices, and PFAS exposures from 2011-2022, EPA is set to issue a final rule that amends reporting requirements for PFAS under the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI).

The TRI, created by the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), is a collection of information gathered from the reporting of toxic chemical releases and pollution prevention activities, as required of industrial and federal facilities. Facilities that manufacture, process, or otherwise use notable quantities of any of the over 780 TRI-listed chemicals must report annually the quantities of those chemicals released into the environment or otherwise managed as waste. The vast majority of the 189 chemicals in the PFAS family were added to the TRI list for the 2021 reporting period, and since that time facilities have been required to file an annual report for the TRI if they manufactured, processed, or otherwise used more than 100 pounds of those chemicals in the annual reporting period. Facilities that fell under that volume (the de minimis amount) were previously exempt from the PFAS reporting requirements.Continue Reading Proposed EPA Rule Would Eliminate the De Minimis Exemption for Reporting PFAS Under the Toxics Release Inventory, and Would Require Disclosure of PFAS in Chemical Mixtures and Finished Products