Read the full article by Anna Canny (KTOO)

“Gov. Mike Dunleavy has vetoed a bill that would ban firefighting foam containing harmful PFAS compounds, known as ‘forever chemicals,’ which have polluted drinking water across Alaska.

The bill passed the state House and Senate by a wide margin, but the governor quietly vetoed it over the weekend. The bill’s co-sponsor, Democratic Senator Jesse Kiehl of Juneau, said the veto came as a shock. 

‘I’m not sure which stage of grief I’m in, exactly. But I’m not past anger,’ Kiehl said. 

In his veto letter, Gov. Dunleavy cited concerns about a lack of alternatives to the foams, which are used to fight fuel fires, often at airports.

In Alaska, firefighting foams are believed to be the singlest biggest source of PFAS contamination, which has been linked to higher risks of various cancers and other health problems. 

PFAS are called ‘forever chemicals’ because they don’t break down, which can lead to persistent pollution of water and soil.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed new national standards to limit PFAS in drinking water. Alaska does not regulate PFAS, but if the federal regulations take effect, the state will be responsible for cleaning PFAS-contaminated water. 

Kiehl said the bill aimed to prevent further pollution ahead of the expensive and complicated task of removing the chemicals from water. 

‘Without state legislative action, the message from the Dunleavy Administration is, only the federal government can be counted on to get poison out of Alaskans’ water,’ Kiehl said. ‘I don’t believe that’s right.’

Kiehl said the Governor’s office was unresponsive to his requests to meet in the weeks leading up to the veto. 

Gov. Dunleavy has not yet responded to requests for comment. 

Adam Ortega is a representative for Alaska Community Action on Toxics, an Anchorage-based nonprofit that has been lobbying for statewide PFAS regulation for more than a decade. 

He said the Legislature’s near-unanimous approval of the bill earlier this year was a major milestone for PFAS regulation at the state level. He said the veto was extremely disappointing. 

‘It’s super counterintuitive,’ Ortega said. ‘Dunleavy does not seem to care about his constituents, which is frustrating.’

According to Ortega, the limited scope of the bill, with a focus on just firefighting foam, still falls short of the regulations needed to prevent significant health impacts. 

‘It’s the bare minimum. It’s been scaled back so many times,’ Ortega said. ‘This bill, it’s the bottom of the barrel. But we’re still fighting to get it passed.’

Kiehl has proposed various limitations on PFAS chemicals throughout his time in office, including more comprehensive bills to regulate PFAS in drinking water that ultimately failed. 

Now, the only chance for his latest bill to pass is if lawmakers vote to override the veto with 40 votes from the 60-person Legislature. Vetoes are rarely overridden, but Kiehl said he hopes to try during next year’s legislative session.”