Gov. Mike Dunleavy addresses Electrify Alaska! Conference attendees on Oct. 25, 2021. Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith for The Cordova Times

Gov. Mike Dunleavy has vetoed House Bill 51, which had broad support in Alaska Legislature, and would have banned the use of firefighting foams that contain the toxic substances per-and polyfluoroalkl (PFAS). 

Alaska Community Action on Toxics (ACAT) spokesman Adam Ortega called the veto “a huge step in the wrong direction” which put public waters and public health at further risk. 

Dunleavy said the legislation did not provide alternatives to aqueous film foaming foam (AFFF) for firefighters.  

“If AFFF is removed from a community, residents will have no alternatives to AFFF, leaving Alaskans vulnerable to a preventable and unfortunate event to happen,” he said. 

Ortega said the legislation, which was introduced by Sen. Jesse Kiehl, D-Juneau, had been in development for four years, and had combined provisions of previous bills to stop liver and kidney damage, and immune system suppression. 

The governor’s decision to veto the bill “is a travesty and a betrayal of the people of Alaska,” said 

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Pam Miller, founder and executive director of ACAT.  

“This will perpetuate the poisoning of our water, fish, wildlife and people with dangerous PFAS,” Miller said. “PFAS are extremely toxic at low exposure levels and can cause cancers, disrupt our endocrine system, impair immune response, and cause infertility.” 

“This decision is an outrage for which he has no justification,” Miller continued about the Governor’s decision. “There was strong bipartisan support and near unanimity in the Legislature. The bill also had the strong support of people from affected communities, firefighters, health care, professionals, tribes and Native organizations. Shame on Dunleavy. How many more people have to be poisoned?” 

Miller said ACAT has worked to support enactment of legislation to protect public health from harm 

caused by PFAS for more than five years.  

“Drinking water of people throughout Alaska is contaminated,” she said. 

HB 51 passed in the final hours of this year’s legislative session and needed only the governor’s signature to become law. The bill passed the Senate in a 20-0 vote and the House 38-2. 

PFAS is a class of over 12,000 substances, known as “forever chemicals” because they are extremely persistent and have been found in the bodies of humans and wildlife. 

They are known to cause harm to health even at extremely low exposure levels, including certain cancers. 

Most contamination from PFAS in Alaska drinking water comes from dispersive use of PFAS-based industrial firefighting foams used on airports and military bases.   

Ortega said there are safe, effective and economical alternatives to the use of PFAS-based firefighting foams already in use at major airports, military installations, and oil and gas facilities worldwide. 

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