Congress finalized legislation this week to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration for another five years ahead of Friday's deadline. The measure received overwhelming bipartisan support, including priorities to make air travel safer and an increase of consumer protections.

It also included funds to help eliminate toxic chemicals at airports that are sometimes referred to as “forever chemicals.”

What You Need To Know

  • Congress finalized a five-year reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration

  • Part of that legislation includes Rep. Salud Carbajal's "Clean Airport Agenda" 

  • The two bills deal with removing PFAS, or forever chemicals, from airports

“I have an airport in my district that PFAS chemicals have actually gotten into the groundwater. So it's ground zero — at least, the airport in California where this is pervasive and prevalent — not to mention other airports in my district and throughout the country and in the state of California which have used federally approved and required firefighting foam that has PFAS chemicals in it. And we need to address that in an urgent fashion,” said Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Calif., whose “Clean Airport Agenda” was included in the FAA reauthorization. Tests on wells at the San Luis Obispo Regional Airport, at the northern end of Carbajal's district, found that dozens of wells had PFAS levels exceeding acceptable levels as determined by the state.

Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, better known as PFAS, are long-lasting chemicals that are slow to break down and are linked to harmful effects in humans and animals. Effects include reproductive problems, low birth weight in children, increased risk of certain cancers, hormone disruption, increase cholesterol and reduced immune system response. And PFAS can be found across American society: in food packaging, household cleaning products, older non-stick cookware, personal care and cosmetic goods, manufacturing or chemical production facilities and in firefighting foams. The chemicals can be toxic even in low quantities, and due to their long-lasting nature, can easily build up over time.

The agenda includes Carbajal’s Pollution-Free Aviation Sites Act, which will establish a grant program — authorized to distribute $350 million over five years — to support airports as they replace firefighting foams containing PFAS, along with the Save Our Airports Reporting Act, which will require regular progress reports from federal agencies as airports phase out these "forever chemicals."

“It’s urgent that we move forward with making sure that we are assisting local communities in this case. Airports have transitioned to a viable alternative, and to stop the eroding damage into our water supply,” said Carbajal. “It comes with a reporting requirement, which requires the EPA, the Department of Transportation and the Department of Defense to report to Congress every six months how we’re doing in our progression — because unless we do that, it will be out of sight, out of mind, out of mind, out of sight.”

Carbajal was joined by co-sponsors Rep. Mike Lawler, R-N.Y. and Rep. Derrick Van Orden, D-Wis.

In addition to Carbajal's bills, the FAA reauthorization includes funding for more hiring and training of air traffic controllers, standardizes the refund process for customers and bars airlines from charging families extra to sit together.