EPA Issues PFAS Strategic Roadmap Swiftly Followed by Other Key PFAS Announcements


On October 18, 2021, the US Environmental Protection Agency launched its PFAS Strategic Roadmap: EPA’s Commitments to Action 2021-2024 (“Roadmap”)[i] setting forth its “whole-of-agency” approach to address per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The Roadmap sets forth timeframes for EPA actions to address PFAS across environmental media and under various statutory authorities including the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), Clean Water Act (CWA) and Clean Air Act (CAA). As such, EPA’s implementation of the Roadmap, including key initiatives rolled out in the days following its release, will affect a broad spectrum of industry sectors and facilities throughout the PFAS lifecycle who may face new and expanded regulatory requirements and obligations.

The Roadmap describes EPA’s approach as centered on the following strategies: (i) consideration of the full lifecycle of PFAS; (ii) a focus on prevention of PFAS entering the environment as a “foundational step” to reducing potential risks; (iii) investment in scientific research to ensure science-based decision-making; (iv) holding polluters accountable; and (v) prioritizing protection of disadvantaged communities. Key regulatory actions, some of which are currently underway[ii] and some of which reflect “bolder new policies,” are assigned to specific EPA program offices for implementation with expected timeframes ranging from 2021 to 2024.

Notably, on the heels of the Roadmap’s release, EPA has swiftly moved forward with the following:

PFAS Compound

Chronic RfD (mg/kg-day)

PFOA (2016)

0.00002

PFOS (2016)

0.00002

PFBS (2021)

0.0003

PFBA (Proposed 2021)

0.001

GenX (2021)

0.000003

Other EPA initiatives planned for release by the end of 2021 include:

A host of other EPA actions will continue, or be initiated, next year and beyond under various regulatory programs consistent with EPA’s stated objective to “leverage the full range of statutory authorities to confront the human health and ecological risks of PFAS.” A number of these actions have significant implications and will undoubtedly be the subject of continuing and vigorous debate among stakeholders. These include:

Noteworthy cross-programmatic themes in the Roadmap include its emphasis on research and information-gathering, reinforcement of strategies that would break the large diverse class of PFAS into smaller categories (an approach that many have argued is necessary due to the diverse structures of PFAS compounds), focus on protection of disadvantaged communities and commitment to use enforcement tools to identify and address PFAS releases.  The Roadmap expressly provides that EPA “will seek to hold polluters and other responsible parties accountable for their actions and for PFAS remediation efforts.”

As part of its stakeholder engagement efforts on the Roadmap, EPA is holding two national webinars open to the public.[viii]  The nature, scope and timing of EPA’s implementation of the Roadmap will likely be shaped by public input, the extent to which funding is made available for implementation, and measures that are currently being considered in Congress.[ix]

It is also important to note that federal agencies in addition to EPA are also undertaking PFAS activities.  The Roadmap was announced as part of the Biden Administration’s over-arching government-wide plan to address PFAS and includes activities to be undertaken by various agencies including the Department of Defense, the Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Health and Human Services.[x] Meanwhile, a growing number of states continue to press ahead with novel and broad PFAS regulations, in some instances years ahead of the federal government. The accelerating pace of PFAS initiatives and shifting regulatory landscape will make it essential for those affected to focus on necessary

[i] See PFAS Strategic Roadmap: EPA’s Commitments to Action 2021-2024

[ii] The Roadmap builds upon the PFAS Action Plan issued by EPA in 2019

[iii] See National PFAS Testing Strategy: Identification of Candidate Per- and Poly-fluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) for Testing (October 2021)

[iv] See Letter from Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham to EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan (June 23,2021) (“Petition”). The Petition notes challenges faced by the State of New Mexico in addressing PFAS contamination from “federal facilities who refuse to act quickly to remediate PFAS contamination.”

[v] See Letter from EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan to Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham (October 26, 2021)

[vi] See EPA Proposes Expansive and Retroactive Reporting Rule for PFAS (July 7, 2021).

[vii] See Heading Down Different Paths: An Update on PFAS Regulatory Developments in Northeastern States and at the Federal Level (October 19, 2020)

[viii] Registration is available to the public and may be accessed at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/webinar-pfas-strategic-roadmap-epas-commitments-to-action-2021-2024-registration-192874531917.

[ix] See Congress Presses Forward on PFAS Measures (August 20, 2021).

[x] See The White House, FACT SHEET: Biden-Harris Administration Launches Plan to Combat PFAS Pollution.


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National Law Review, Volumess XI, Number 302