2000 Scorecard Vote
The Safe Drinking Water Act and the Clean Water Act give the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) authority to protect the nation's water supplies. Since 1972, EPA has used that authority to double the percentage of the nation's water that is safe for swimming and fishing and to increase the number of people served by sewage treatment plants from 85 million in 1972 to 173 million today.
One of the most important weapons in the EPA arsenal is its ability to regulate drinking-water levels of toxic chemicals such as arsenic, which the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) recently affirmed as a potential cause of lung, bladder, and skin cancer. The NAS also noted that EPA's current arsenic standard, first established in 1942, is outdated and unsafe. EPA missed the last three statutory deadlines to update its arsenic standards; however, the 1996 amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act require that they set a new standard by January 1, 2001.
A rider attached to H.R. 4635, the FY 2001 VA-HUD appropriations bill, would impede EPA from substantially reducing permissible levels of arsenic in tap water and even prohibit EPA from enforcing the current arsenic standard.
In addition the bill contained a rider that would halt EPA's clean up of contaminated sediments in U.S. waterways pending completion of an NAS study. Toxic chemicals, such as PCBs, in river, lake, and harbor sediments can contaminate fish and pose a serious threat to public health. A previous NAS study and research by EPA and independent scientists all indicate that removal of toxic sediments from waterways is the safest and best course of action to protect the environment and the public's health. The broad language of this provision would interfere with clean up of at least 28 sites in 15 states. This provision could prevent not only clean up of toxic sediments but also clean up planning and negotiations.
During consideration of H.R. 4635, Representatives Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) and Henry Waxman (D-CA) introduced an amendment to strike these anti-environment provisions from the appropriations bill. On June 21, 2000, the House rejected the Hinchey-Waxman amendment, 208– 216 (House roll call vote 304). YES is the pro-environment vote. In October, the Senate also passed a VA-HUD appropriations bill that included restrictions on new arsenic standards and on the removal of toxics from lakes and rivers. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) offered amendments to strip these riders from the bill on the Senate floor; however, her amendments failed to pass.