Skip to main content

Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee Markup Recap


06.22.21

Tomorrow, the House Energy and Commerce Committee is marking up three bills related to safe drinking water and PFAS. If you missed last week’s Environment and Climate Change subcommittee markup, here are the mustknow details. ↓

DRINKING WATER

Let’s start with Energy and Commerce Republican Leader Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) breaking down top concerns with H.R. 3291, the Assistance, Quality, and Affordability (AQUA) Act of 2021.

  1. COSTS:“It authorizes appropriations at levels 400 to 500 percent higher than the most recent appropriated amount. It also separately includes a NEW program – costing $45Billion, providing FREE replacements of privately-owned lead service lines, including to the wealthiest Americans.”
  2. HURTS RURAL AREAS:“It removes requirements from the Safe Drinking Water Act that control costs and promote the affordability of safe drinking water. By deleting these provisions, States face underfunded mandates and water systems spiral into debt, chronic non-compliance, or both. This will likely decimate small and rural water systems.
  3. BAD PRECEDENT:It prohibits the collection of any bills for five future years for water utilities that accept billing arrearage payments. This is not the type of precedent we should set—the Federal government shutting down responsible public utilities from collecting the revenues they need to operate.”

Leader Rodgers proposed an amendment to the AQUA Act, which Democrats blocked. The amendmentincludedmany provisions intheDrinking Water Funding for the Future Act.

Key from Leader Rodgers: Clean drinking water is a priority for all of us. This amendment is focused on the provisions in the bill where we agree. This amendment, which includes most of the Drinking water funding for the Future Act that Ranking Member McKinley and I introduced last month, extends the successful down payment made in 2018 by the bipartisan America’s Water Infrastructure Act.

It promotes drinking water system compliance and purchasing power, advances innovation in this sector, and prepares drinking water systems to smartly face terrorism and resilience challenges.”

LOW-INCOME WATER CUSTOMER ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS ACT (H.R. 3293)

The second bill in the subcommittee markup was H.R. 3293, the Low-Income Water Customer Assistance Programs Act. This legislation creates the first income support program of any kind at EPA.

The problem? It makes poorer rural communities jump through MORE burdensome hoops than any other areas of the country, including urban ones. That’s not fair. 

Plus, as Rep. Jeff Duncan explained here this legislation lacks accountability. It directs the EPA to study whether there is a need for assistance only AFTER the new water payment assistant program is created. The more logistical first step to drive results would be to complete the study before establishing the program. 

Rep. Duncan:“This bill requires a national needs assessment while at the same time it instructs the EPA to study the water customer affordability problem to figure out what it is, how big it is, and the best ways to solve it. Seems kind of backwards to me. I believe the most logical first step is to take is to study this first rather than do so after the fact. So my amendment would do that. It strikes the billing offset program for drinking water and waste water and it puts the focus on figuring out the size and scope of the problem before we try to solve the problem as well as it comes up with the best way to attack it.”

PFAS ACTION ACT (H.R. 2467)

The PFAS Action Act was the final bill in the subcommittee markup.    

As Leader Rodgers and Rep. Bill Johnson said, there is bipartisan agreement and support to address PFAS contamination. In fact, Congress has taken many bipartisan actions that are now law to support the cleanup of PFAS, to protect drinking water, and increase our understanding of these chemicals. 

Rep. Johnson: “First, let me be clear, as other members have voiced today, dangerous chemicals have no place in our drinking water and those who recklessly release them should be held accountable.”

Unfortunately, the PFAS Action Act goes too far, too fast. For example, it requires EPA to make regulatory determinations within five years on more than 9,250 PFAS chemicals under those same laws – and without public participation.

Leader Rodgers: The PFAS Action Act is not measured. It prejudges outcomes–showing little regard for objective science, risk assessment, transparency, and public comment…It would overwhelm EPA’s ability to look at any other issue EPA might consider a higher public health priority. This is not good policy or government.”

Why is a de facto ban on PFAS bad policy? Because as Rep. Carter reminded everyone, it would have troubling consequences for the manufacturing of items like Kevlar for military and law enforcement agencies, medical devices, masks, surgical gowns for healthcare professionals, and solar panels, lithium batteries, and semiconductors for green technologies.

For Wednesday’s full committee markup of these bills, be sure to follow @HouseCommerce for real time updates from Energy and Commerce Republicans.

Blog