US airport executives are concerned that a provision in a defense spending bill passed by the US House will expose airport operators to “costly litigation and cleanup efforts,” if the measure becomes law.

The House on July 12 passed defense authorization legislation that included an amendment that would require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to designate per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) as hazardous substances under the Superfund program.

American Association of Airport Executives president Todd Hauptli told House speaker Nancy Pelosi in a July 11 letter that the provision, if passed into law, would expose airport operators to “extensive and costly litigation and cleanup efforts at airports across the country that are required by federal regulation to use firefighting foam that contains PFAS and have no alternatives to the use of such foam.”

Under current federal regulations, airports are required to use aqueous film-forming foam that contains PFAS. If the House provision becomes law, airports would be on the hook for “significant remediation and cleanup costs associated with utilizing a firefighting product they are required to use by federal regulation,” Hauptli wrote.

Airports are eager to make use of alternative firefighting foam that does not contain PFAS and were “gratified” that Congress included a provision in the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 mandating the approval of PFAS-free alternatives within three years, he added.

“We have strongly encouraged the FAA to pursue the approval of alternatives as quickly as possible,” Hauptli wrote, adding that, “at a minimum,” US airports want to be exempted from liability under the Superfund program for the costs and damages associated with their use of PFAS. 

Ben Goldstein, ben.goldstein@aviationweek.com