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House Subcommittee Held Hearing on Key Water Infrastructure Bills

Yesterday, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change held a hearing on several bills to address drinking water issues. Dr. Jennifer McLain, the Director of the Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), testified during the hearing which discussed the following bills:

  • 1512, the “Climate Leadership and Environmental Action for our Nation’s Future Act” or the “CLEAN Future Act” (Reps. Pallone (D-NJ), Tonko (D-NY), and Rush (D-IL) on 03/02/2021)
  • 616, the “Emergency Water is a Human Right Act” (Rep. Tlaib (D-MI) on 01/28/2021)
  • 3238, the “Colonia Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2021” (Rep. Escobar (D-TX) on 05/14/2021)
  • 3267, the “Protect Drinking Water from PFAS Act of 2021” (Rep. Boyle (D-PA) on 05/17/2021)
  • 3282, the “Drinking Water Funding for the Future Act of 2021” (Reps. McKinley (R-WV) and Rodgers (R-WA) on 05/17/2021)
  • 3286, the “Emergency Order Assurance, Safety, and Inspection of Water Systems Act” or the “Emergency OASIS Act” (Rep. Ruiz (D-CA) on 05/17/2021)
  • 3291, the “Assistance, Quality, and Affordability Act of 2021” (Rep. Tonko on 05/18/2021)
  • 3300, the “Get the Lead Out Act” (Reps. Smith (R-NJ) and Cuellar (D-TX) on 05/18/2021)
  • 3293, the “Low-Income Water Customer Assistance Programs Act of 2021” (Reps. Blunt Rochester (D-DE), Katko (R-NY), Dingell (D-MI), and Tlaib on 05/18/2021)
  • 3292, the “Water Debt Relief Act of 2021” (Reps. Dingell, Tlaib, and Blunt Rochester on 05/18/2021)

A recording of the hearing is available here: Hearing on “The CLEAN Future Act and Drinking Water: Legislation to Ensure Drinking Water is Safe and Clean” | Democrats, Energy and Commerce Committee (house.gov)

While both Republican and Democrat Representatives agreed on the need for additional infrastructure funding for drinking water, many Republicans raised questions about the provisions outlined in the ten bills during questioning of Dr. McLain. House Energy and Commerce Committee Hearings and Meetings Video |  Congress.gov | Library of Congress

Rep. Earl “Buddy” Carter (R-GA) was concerned about states’ ability to meet matching requirements if the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund appropriations are increased and whether EPA and states would have adequate time and capacity to administer a larger program. McLain replied that EPA and states have extensive experience administering the SRFs and that EPA will work with states to help enable them to meet the matching funds requirements.

Several Representatives asked about the anticipated timeline for lead service line removal, what knowledge EPA has on the number of lead service lines across the country, and how EPA anticipates filling those data gaps. Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) agreed on the need to prevent lead from entering drinking water, but he wants to “make sure the policy and various incentives will work” for lead service line replacement.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH) were both concerned that the proposed legislation would increase regulations on hydraulic fracturing and underground injection of carbon dioxide but not protect drinking water sources.