Rep. Carbajal Introduces Clean Airport Agenda: Two New Bipartisan Bills to Help Central Coast Airports Remove Threat of Forever Chemicals
San Luis Obispo, September 8, 2023
Tags: Environment and Energy
Today, Congressman Salud Carbajal (CA-24) introduced two bipartisan bills aimed at helping the Central Coast curb the threat of forever chemicals in communities near regional airports.
Rep. Carbajal’s ‘Clean Airport Agenda’, which he officially unveiled at San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport earlier this week, includes two new pieces of legislation co-led with Reps. Mike Lawler (R-NY-17) and Derrick Van Orden (R-WI-03).
“Access to clean drinking water is paramount to protecting the health of our communities. But federally-required foams used at our airports have been found to contain chemicals that pose a grave threat to our drinking water and public health,” said Rep. Carbajal. “That’s why I’m introducing legislation that enlists federal agencies, the same ones that oversee sites like San Luis Obispo that are already fighting contamination, to help our airports clean up this public health threat, as well as hold them accountable for their plan to phase out these chemicals for good.”
“As a member of the bipartisan Congressional PFAS Task Force, ensuring that Americans are safe from PFAS chemical exposure is a top concern. We know that PFAS exposure can lead to higher chances of cancer and tumors in organs such as the liver and kidneys, as well as higher cholesterol levels , hypertension, thyroid, disease, and many other illnesses,” said Congressman Lawler. “I was proud to join Congressman Dan Kildee earlier this year in introducing legislation to ensure our veterans exposed to this toxic chemical get the help that they need and I am also proud to join my colleagues Representatives Carbajal and Van Orden on legislation to help our nation’s airports transition away from the use of PFAS-containing foams, helping to ensure the safety of travelers, airport staff, and surrounding communities.”
“PFAS has contaminated multiple communities across the Third Congressional District, the state of Wisconsin, and the country. The federal government mandated these chemicals and it’s the federal government’s responsibility to clean them up. Wisconsinites should be able to access water without fear of contamination. I’m proud to join Reps. Carbajal and Lawler in this bipartisan effort to deliver a cleaner environment for our children and wildlife,” said Rep. Van Orden.
Some fire suppression foams used at airports contain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which have been linked to health hazards including cancer and developmental harm.
PFAS are classified as ‘forever chemicals’, meaning they do not naturally degrade, and pose an escalated risk for buildup if leaked into the groundwater of nearby communities, as it has been found in San Luis Obispo and other California communities.
The two bills introduced by Carbajal aim to help airports transition away from PFAS foams, enlist the federal government to help with that transition, and ensure federal agencies are keeping up with plans to phase out these toxic tools.
The ‘Clean Airport Agenda’ includes:
The Pollution-Free Aviation Sites (PFAS) Act, which would create a new transition fund within the Department of Transportation to provide grants to airports needing support to replace PFAS foams with fluorine-free alternatives.
The Save our Airports Reporting Act, which requires the Federal Aviation Administration to provide a progress report every 6 months on their efforts to transition to the use of PFAS-free firefighting foams.
The bills are endorsed by the International Association of Fire Fighters, California Airports Council, Airports Council International – North America, and the Environmental Working Group.
“It’s well past time to remove toxic, PFAS-laden foams from use at our nation’s airports. Fire fighters and the public deserve better. The IAFF stands firmly behind Reps. Salud Carbajal and Mike Lawler's bipartisan legislation directing the FAA to replace these carcinogens with safer alternatives. Our union will work tirelessly to make sure this bill becomes a reality so that every fire fighter – and the people we protect – avoid needless exposure to forever chemicals,” said Edward A Kelly, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters.
“The ‘’Save Our Airports Reporting Act’ and the ‘Pollution-Free Aviation Sites Act’’ address critical areas of concern, offering much-needed support for our industry's efforts toward sustainability and safety,” said Jim Lites, Executive Director for the California Airports Council. “We appreciate Congressman Carbajal’s foresight in recognizing the financial implications and complexities associated with this transition. The California Airports Council firmly believes that these bills will provide the necessary tools and direction to facilitate the shift to fluorine-free firefighting foam.”
“ACI-NA appreciates the help of Congressman Carbajal in helping U.S. airports successfully transition to new firefighting foams. For decades the federal government has mandated that airports use firefighting foams containing PFAS. With PFAS-free alternatives set to be available soon, airports need federal assistance and timely and updated guidance from the FAA on how to make in this transition. ACI-NA appreciates the work Congressman Carbajal is doing to assist airports in this important transition so that we can continue our safety mandate while being good stewards of the environment,” said Kevin M. Burke, President and CEO, Airports Council International – North America.
The bills also have the support of the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport, Santa Maria Airport, and Santa Barbara Airport.
“Congressman Carbajal's introduced legislation present a pivotal moment for our industry, one that holds the promise of addressing a pressing concern that affects not just a single airport or a region but our entire aviation community. At the heart of these bills is a critical opportunity to confront the pervasive issue of PFAS contamination at airports head-on, while also championing sustainability and environmental responsibility on a broader scale,” stated Courtney Johnson, County of San Luis Obispo Director of Airports. “Both pieces of legislation demonstrate proactive steps that transcend individual airports, benefit the entire aviation community by safeguarding the environment, promote public health, and strengthen our industry. I encourage all stakeholders to support the Save Our Airports Reporting Act and Pollution-Free Aviation Sites Act, recognizing their far-reaching benefits for airports nationwide.”
"Santa Maria Airport is grateful to Congressman Carbajal for recognizing that the burden of PFAS at local airports is not just a local problem, and for introducing legislation that can help remove the threat of these forever chemicals at airports for good,” said Martin Pehl, General Manager for Santa Maria Airport. “Like other regional airports, we followed federal rules and regulations on deploying these foams. Now, we applaud this effort to bring more federal support to help airports like ours transition to PFAS-free alternatives."
"We wholeheartedly support Congressman Salud Carbajal's bills, including the PFAS Act and the SOAR Act. This legislation underscores the essential role of federal support in our transition away from existing federally mandated use firefighting foam containing PFAS. A federal commitment is vital for a successful and effective shift towards safer alternatives at all commercial service airports." said Chris Hastert, Santa Barbara Airport Director.
Rep. Carbajal has been working in Congress to address PFAS contamination since his first term in Congress.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which Carbajal helped write and get signed into law in November 2021, contains $10 billion for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to address emerging contaminants, including PFAS, through existing wastewater and drinking water infrastructure programs.
In 2019, Rep. Carbajal helped get legislation signed into law that required the Department of Defense to phase out PFAS-containing foams at military installations by 2024.
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