GILLETTE, Wyo. — Under a bipartisan law that U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis, R-WY, helped introduce, commercial airports will receive more federal funding to limit discharge of toxic chemicals.
President Joe Biden signed the bill into law Dec. 20, The White House announced.
The Preventing PFAS Runoff at Airports Act will deploy more existing Federal Aviation Administration funding for airports to buy testing devices to buy firefighting equipment without discharging per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, a news release from Lummis’s office said. These “forever chemicals” don’t naturally break down, so they threaten the environment and the communities around airports.
Seven Wyoming airports are eligible for this remediation funding. Wyoming airports must use firefighting foam that contains the chemicals, and, for years, airports had to discharge this foam as part of routine, federally mandated testing of their firefighting equipment.
Since its development in the 1970s, aqueous film forming foam, which contains PFAS, has been the most effective firefighting agent for extinguishing fuel fires, saving lives and equipment, the U.S. Navy said.
The law encourages airports to buy an input-based testing system to help limit or prevent exposure to the chemicals. Under the law, the government will pay all allowable project costs for aqueous film forming foam input-based testing equipment and its installation. This equipment is eligible for funding through Nov. 1, 2023, according to an FAA program guidance letter.
The established portion of government funding for the equipment will end either in December 2027 or 180 days after the covered equipment is no longer eligible for Airport Improvement Program funding, according to the law. By June 2024, the FAA Administrator will brief House of Representatives committees on other options for Congress to reimburse airports with less federal funding.
“PFAS contaminations around airports is a serious problem with a very easy solution. With simple testing solutions that are already funded under the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Airport Improvement Program, we can protect the environment without creating more burdensome regulations on small airports around Wyoming,” Lummis said. “I am thrilled to see this bill become law.”
Lummis’s office did not immediately reply to County 17’s request for further information regarding Wyoming airports’ funding.
Other news on PFAS
Biden also signed the Protecting Firefighters from Adverse Substances Act on Dec. 20. That law requires the Department of Homeland Security to develop guidance to protect firefighters and other emergency responders from exposure to PFAS, the White House said.
3M announced Dec. 20 that by 2025, it will stop manufacturing all fluoropolymers, fluorinated fluids and PFAS-based additive products. It’s also working to stop using PFAS in its products before 2026.