1994 Scorecard Vote
In 1974, Congress passed the Safe Drinking Water Act to ensure that all Americans have access to safe, clean water. While the law helped make drinking water safer, it has failed to protect millions of Americans -- particularly in rural areas and small towns -- from dangerous pollutants. In part, this is because the federal government has failed to set adequate standards for some pollutants; in part it is because the law hasn`t been adequately enforced. According to EPA studies, for example, millions of people still get their drinking water from systems that don't comply with the law; more than 100,000 violations of the Act are reported each year (few result in fines or other enforcement action). Sometimes, these violations can have deadly consequences: in 1993 and 1994, for example, more than 120 people in Milwaukee and Las Vegas died after drinking contaminated water from municipal water systems. Despite the obvious need for a stronger Safe Drinking Water Act, some lawmakers introduced amendments designed to weaken the law when the Senate considered reauthorization this year. Recorded votes were taken on three amendments:
Sen J. Bennett Johnston (D-LA) offered an amendment to require EPA to produce three complex, time-consuming studies whenever it proposed to strengthen public health and environmental protections. Specifically, the amendment required EPA to conduct risk assessment, cost-benefit, and comparative risk studies of any proposed rule that would have an economic impact of over $100 million per year. Before adopting any such rule, the agency would have to certify that its benefit justified the cost.
Although this amendment included improvements over earlier versions offered by Johnston -- such as the $100 million threshold that ensured it would be applied only to major rules -- environmentalists and public health professionals opposed it because of the uncertain nature of risk and cost benefit studies and the needless burden it places on EPA. They also noted that implementing the Johnston amendment would cost $20 million per year.
On May 18, 1994, the Senate voted to accept the Johnston amendment by a vote of 90 - 8. NO is the pro-environment vote.