Court backs EPA’s ‘forever chemicals’ testing strategy

By Ellie Borst | 06/12/2024 01:15 PM EDT

The 4th Circuit’s three-judge panel called the agency’s methodology “more efficient” than environmentalists’ pleas for a broader approach.

A water researcher tests a sample of water for PFAS.

A scientist tests a sample at EPA's Center for Environmental Solutions and Emergency Response in Cincinnati. Joshua A. Bickel/AP

A federal appellate court handed EPA a win on its strategy for testing select “forever chemicals,” a disappointment to North Carolina environmentalists who say the agency’s limited definition leaves major gaps.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in a Monday opinion affirmed a lower court’s decision against six groups that petitioned EPA to require chemical company Chemours to conduct health and environmental tests on 54 different PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances.

EPA granted the groups’ petition under the premise that its national PFAS testing strategy would suffice, since the groups should get some data on 39 of the 54 substances. But the groups argued EPA in fact denied more of their requests than it granted, since the testing strategy does not require direct testing on 47 of the 54 PFAS.


EPA’s approach “is much more efficient than individually testing fifty-four PFAS that may provide identical information,” Judge G. Steven Agee wrote for the three-judge panel.