House Considers Perchlorate Regulations

A House subcommittee has approved legislation to require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate perchlorate in drinking water.

by Patrick Crow, Washington Correspondent

A House subcommittee has approved legislation to require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate perchlorate in drinking water.

The House Environment and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee sent the legislation to the full Energy and Commerce Committee. In the Senate, Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), the chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee, has been pushing similar legislation.

The Department of Defense and the defense industry have used perchlorate in the manufacturing, testing, and firing of rockets and missiles. When leaked, the highly soluble chemical moves easily from soil to surface and drinking water. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reported that perchlorate has contaminated at least 153 public water systems in 26 states.

If ingested, perchlorate can impair the thyroid gland’s ability to produce vitally important hormones. Impairment of the thyroid in pregnant women can affect fetal development.

Rep. Albert Wynn (D-Md.), chairman of the House subcommittee, said, “For almost a decade EPA has delayed taking action to place safe limitations on the amount of perchlorate that is present in our drinking water. Because of the detrimental public health and environmental impacts of perchlorate we can no longer wait for EPA to take action. The time to regulate perchlorate is now.”

The Environmental Working Group applauded the subcommittee’s action, saying it was the first time Congress has acted to prevent the public’s exposure to the rocket fuel ingredient.

State Revenue GrowthSlowing, Survey Finds

Revenue growth for state governments has slowed and tighter fiscal conditions are expected in 2008, the National Governors Association (NGA) and the National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO) have reported.

The two groups said their survey found that while most states experienced healthy revenue growth during fiscal 2007, some already have seen significant deterioration of their fiscal conditions.

They said states expect continued expenditure pressures in fiscal 2008 from a variety of sources, including increased funding demands related to health care and Medicaid and to long-term challenges such as demographic shifts, employee pensions and infrastructure. They said the nation’s weakening housing market is contributing to the decline.

In fiscal 2007, state general fund spending growth was 9.3% -- about three percentage points above the 30-year historical state spending average of 6.4%. The groups said one state reported negative expenditure growth for 2007, and seven states enacted negative growth budgets for fiscal 2008. State revenue collections were up 5.6% in 2007, and 38 states exceeded their original budget projections, four states met their projections and eight states were below projections.

Health care was the single largest expenditure for states in fiscal 2007. It accounted for nearly one-third of total state spending. Medicaid alone comprises about 22% of total state spending, and with a projected spending growth rate of 8% annually for the next decade, the program will continue to strain state budgets, the groups said.

In other Washington news:

– The American Water Works Association Research Foundation’s advisory council has proposed 22 projects for the foundation’s 2008 R&D program. In January the foundation will determine which projects will proceed.

– The Environmental Protection Agency has given the Santa Clara Valley Water District (San Jose, Calif.) a Water Efficiency Leader award for helping consumers cut usage 55,000 acre-feet (12%) through conservation and recycling. In the individual category, Allan Dietemann, of the Seattle, Wash., public utilities department, received an award for promoting water conservation.

- Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has filed a bill to authorize water supply projects for water districts in Orange, San Bernardino, and Riverside counties of the Los Angeles area. The projects would increase the region’s water supply by 31,000 acre feet per year, meeting the needs of 64,000 households.

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