Turn to the nation's most objective and informative daily environmental news resource to learn how the United States and key players around the world are responding to the environmental...
Feb. 10 — On a near unanimous vote, the House passed legislation Feb. 10 that would strengthen the Environmental Protection Agency's authority to notify the public when lead levels in drinking water violate federal standards.
Sponsored by Reps. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Dan Kildee (D-Mich.), the Safe Drinking Water Act Improved Compliance Awareness Act (H.R. 4470) needed a two-thirds majority vote to pass under suspended rules. The bill secured a vote of 416-2, with only Reps. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) and Todd Rokita (R-Ind.) voting against it.
As passed, H.R. 4470 also would:
The measure now heads to the Senate, where a bill with similar public notification provisions awaits consideration. That measure was introduced by Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Gary Peters (D-Mich.) on Jan. 28 and was incorporated into an amendment to the Energy Policy Modernization Act (S. 2012).
The amendment includes emergency funds for Flint, Mich., which is reeling from a water contamination crisis, and the public notification measure. Republicans and Democrats are still trying to iron out how to pay for the effort.
The bipartisan bill was introduced Feb. 4 by both lawmakers because Michigan, primarily, the city of Flint and then the EPA were slow to react and respond to citizen complaints about the city's tap water.
Contamination of Flint's tap water began after the state switched the city's water supply in April 2014 to the Flint River without adding controls to prevent corrosion of aged lead service lines.
The measure was co-sponsored by 57 Republicans and 14 Democrats, including all members of the Michigan delegation.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) tweeted that H.R. 4470 was an “important step in response to #Flint,” because it “holds #EPA accountable for keeping public notified in a crisis.”
During the House debate on H.R. 4470, no member spoke against the bill. Republicans for the most part blamed the EPA for ignoring reports of elevated lead levels found in Flint's water, while Democrats mostly held Michigan and Gov. Rick Snyder (R) responsible.
All agree, however, on the need to help Flint residents and to avoid a repeat occurrence.
Upton, who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee that has oversight over federal drinking water programs, expressed sadness that Congress has to consider this bill.
“I wish I wasn't here. I wish this bill wasn't necessary, but it is. Our hearts go out to the folks in Flint,” Upton said, noting the “terrible breakdown in communication in every level of government.”
Upton was followed by Rep. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), ranking Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy, who urged support for the bill. In his floor remarks, Tonko emphasized that contamination of Flint's drinking water supplies underscores a larger infrastructure problem and the role of Congress.
“This Congress, as well as many previous Congresses, has failed to maintain federal support for the maintenance and improvement of our water infrastructure,” Tonko said. “We have been underfunding these systems for decades. The poor condition of the water treatment and distribution system in Flint set the stage for this tragedy.”
Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.) noted that what happened in Flint wasn't a natural disaster but rather a man-made disaster. “Children shouldn't have to worry about safe and clean water. This should not have happened. This bill will ensure that proper coordination occurs going forward.”
Kildee, the bill's author whose district includes Flint, said what happened there was “completely avoidable.” This legislation is one step, but not the total solution, Kildee said, adding that H.R. 4470 would strengthen the hands of those who work at the EPA, requiring them to provide notice to the public and water systems when the state fails to act.
“It's too late to help the people of Flint, but it can help avoid the next Flint perhaps,” he said.
The Energy and Commerce Committee is expected to hold a hearing in March at an unspecified date and time to examine the causes that led to elevated lead levels in Flint's tap water. Upton said the committee would examine what flexibility is available to a state under the Safe Drinking Water Act to use federal drinking water infrastructure funds to address public health emergencies, such as the one experienced in Flint.
“We are beginning to explore things we might be able to do through the SDWA through an examination of existing law and whether tweaks to existing law are needed. We also need to learn more about Flint and priorities,” Dan Schneider, spokesman for House Energy and Commerce Committee, told Bloomberg BNA.
To contact the reporter on this story: Amena H. Saiyid in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at email@example.com
The Safe Drinking Water Act Improved Compliance Awareness Act (H.R. 4470) is available at http://src.bna.com/cAv.
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)