Equilibrium & Sustainability

Defense policy bill would require ‘forever chemical’ testing at military sites

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The National Defense Act Authorization (NDAA) passed by the House on Thursday night would require the Pentagon to factor in extreme weather risks and publish studies on a class of toxic “forever chemicals.”

The NDAA would create a two-year deadline for the Pentagon to finish testing at Defense Department and National Guard installations for the chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). In cases where state PFAS cleanup standards are stricter than federal rules, the Pentagon would be required to follow the tougher rules.

The annual defense policy bill also requires the Defense Department to publish all PFAS testing results for drinking and groundwater on or near former and current military installations and report on the cleanup status at 50 PFAS sites.

Earlier this month, the Environmental Protection Agency announced its first proposed limits on the amounts of PFAS that can be discharged from facilities where they are manufactured. The chemicals have been linked to a number of health problems, including immunodeficiencies and certain cancers.

The NDAA for 2022 was passed in a 316-113 vote, with 38 Democrats and 75 Republicans opposing the $778 billion measure.

The measure will next need to undergo reconciliation with the Senate-passed NDAA, which extends funding for the study of PFAS effects on drinking water in addition to mandating testing at military sites.

Climate provisions in the House-passed NDAA would mandate that the Pentagon factor extreme weather risks into Defense Department planning and allow the use of certain Pentagon funds to be used toward improving defense infrastructure’s resilience. In the past year, the U.S. has experienced massive heatwaves across Western states over the summer and winter weather in Texas that knocked out the state’s self-contained grid.

The Biden administration has emphasized the national security and defense implications of climate change. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday said that “climate change is making things less peaceful, less secure, and rendering our response even more challenging,” citing its role in conflicts in nations such as Ethiopia, Mali and Syria. The United Nations issued a similar warning in 2020.

Updated at 1:35 p.m.

Tags Antony Blinken

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