Friday, May 28, 2010

Assistance, Quality, and Affordability Act of 2010 Passes out of House Committee

On May 26, the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved the “Assistance, Quality, and Affordability Act of 2010,” a water infrastructure bill (H.R. 5320); however the measure was passed out of Committee to the full House with significant cuts to its overall cost and with changes to the bill’s chemical testing protocol. The bill would reauthorize the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (SRF) and otherwise amend the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) (the Committee passed the measure by a 45 – 1 vote; see Committee web page summary here).

Section 10 (“Authorization of Appropriations”) as proposed by co-sponsors by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (CA-30) and Committee member Rep. Ed Markey (MA-7), would have authorized a total of $12.7 billion on an increasing, sliding scale from fiscal years 2011 through 2015. However, the bill as passed would reauthorize the SRF for $4.8 billion cumulatively over the next three years.

Section 16 of the bill (“Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program”) would have changed EPA’s Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program by requiring EPA to test no fewer than 100 substances found in drinking water sources to which a “substantial population” may be exposed to determine (a) if they are endocrine disruptors and if so, (b) how the substances might affect human health. Section 16 also would require EPA to develop and implement a process whereby (a) substances would be selected for testing, (b) new testing technologies and scientific developments would be developed, (c) substances would be accelerated through the program, and (d) information about the program would be made public.

With respect to those Section 16 provisions, the phrase “scientifically relevant information” proved to be problematic regarding its use in making decisions under that section. House Republicans objected to the vagueness of the term, and instead proposing to amend the language to assure use of "minimum criteria for relevant and valid scientific information." In the final version, language establishing qualifiers on the type of science EPA can use to decide what chemicals are tested was included, satisfying both Republican and Democratic Committee members.

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