House Democrats Introduce Comprehensive Update to Safe Drinking Water Act
WASHINGTON, DC — Energy and Commerce Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Environment Subcommittee Ranking Member Paul Tonko (D-NY) led a group of Committee and House Democrats in introducing the Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments of 2017 (H.R. 1068). The bill would make comprehensive changes to ensure safer drinking water for communities nationwide. The proposal would be the first major update to the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) in over twenty years.
When SDWA was last updated in 1996, particularly high procedural hurdles were created that have prevented the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from setting drinking water standards over the past 20 years. Today’s proposal removes those onerous procedural hurdles and sets deadlines for the development of standards on known dangers including: lead, perchlorate, perfluorinated compounds, and algal toxins. The bill would also provide grants for replacement of lead service lines in schools and communities, as well as grants to make water systems more resilient to climate change and extreme weather.
“At a time when President Trump is touting the importance of infrastructure, I’d hope he and Congressional Republicans would recognize communities around the nation are in dire need of dramatic improvements to their drinking water infrastructure,” Pallone said. “It’s disgraceful that the Safe Drinking Water Act has not been updated in over 20 years. Today, we’re introducing a comprehensive update that provides state and local governments the tools and resources they need to ensure that the public has access to clean drinking water. I commend the thoughtful work of so many of my Democratic colleagues in helping to craft this commonsense bill.”
“Every life and every job depends on water,” Tonko said. “Yet for decades our federal government has allowed funding for our water systems to drip away. Now many of these aging systems have fallen into disrepair. Many are reaching their breaking point every day, costing local taxpayers far more to fix than these systems would be to maintain. Contaminants, especially those with inadequate federal drinking water standards, pose health risks to millions of Americans. This should not be a partisan issue; water system failures cause public health crises and major disruptions to the lives and livelihoods of everyone from small business owners to working parents to school kids, even our family pets. It’s time for us to take this issue seriously, and that means honestly assessing and responding to the funding needs of these systems and the communities they support. I want to thank Ranking Member Pallone for his work and leadership on this issue and look forward to working with my colleagues in both parties to find a path forward on this widespread and growing challenge.”
The bill proposes a comprehensive update to existing drinking water standards in addition to improving the resiliency and security of water infrastructure by:
· empowering EPA to set much needed drinking water standards;
· requiring water systems to address risks to their source water from climate change, industrial activity, and terrorism;
· authorizing new investments in lead line replacement, climate resiliency, monitoring technology, and overall drinking water infrastructure;
· and improving compliance and community right to know.
The comprehensive legislation draws on ideas from a number of House Democrats who have introduced bills and put forward ideas on drinking water including from Reps. Brendan Boyle (D-PA), G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), Tony Cardenas (D-CA), Diana DeGette (D-CO), Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Marcia Fudge (D-OH), John Garamendi (D-CA), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Dan Kildee (D-MI), Brenda Lawrence (D-MI), Jerry McNerney (D-CA), Bobby Rush (D-IL), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Jackie Speier (D-CA), and Peter Welch (D-VT).
The proposal has widespread support from safe drinking water and environmental advocates including the League of Conservation Voters, Sierra Club, Clean Water Action, Environmental Working Group, and Environmental Integrity Project.
“We can't take drinking water protection, treatment and distribution for granted,” said Lynn Thorp, National Campaigns Director for Clean Water Action. “Congress needs to ensure that we are implementing the law, increasing investment in our drinking water systems, and promoting innovation.”
The legislative text of the bill is available here.