House passes lower arsenic standard, turns down EPA enforcement funding hike

The U.S. House of Representatives today passed an amendment to the VA-HUD spending bill (H.R. 2620) to require lower arsenic levels in drinking water. An amendment to increase funding for Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) enforcement programs by $25 million, however, was sent down to defeat.

WASHINGTON, July 27, 2001 — The U.S. House of Representatives today passed an amendment to the VA-HUD spending bill (H.R. 2620) to require lower arsenic levels in drinking water. An amendment to increase funding for Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) enforcement programs by $25 million, however, was sent down to defeat.

The action was seen as a mixed message about the federal government's commitment to enforcing environmental laws, according to the League of Conservation Voters (LCV).

"Today's votes on funding and arsenic in drinking water send a mixed message to voters about this Congress's commitment to enforcing our environmental laws," said Betsy Loyless, LCV's political director. "The American people want their elected officials to put a priority on strict enforcement of laws that keep our air clean and our water safe, especially in the face of an administration that seeks to weaken them. The bipartisan coalition to lower arsenic in drinking water reflects the environmental values of mainstream Americans, while the vote against restoring funds for EPA's enforcement program shows us that battle for air and water quality is far from over."

Passage of the arsenic amendment offered by Reps. Bonior (D-Mich.) and Waxman (D-Calif.) represents a major victory for public health and the environment because it deals a blow to a high-profile Bush administration attempt to delay or weaken a January 2001 arsenic standard of 10 parts per billion.

This is the same standard adopted by the World Health Organization, European Union, and many developed and developing nations around the world. The amendment passed 218 to 189 as 19 Republicans joined a majority of Democrats in support of the measure.

The amendment to restore $25 million in critical funding for the Environmental Protection Agency's environmental enforcement programs was offered by Rep. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.). The amendment failed, 182 to 214. It would restore the funding equivalent of 270 positions to EPA's programs that enforce environmental laws.

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