11:33 AM EDT

Heather Wilson, R-NM 1st

Mrs. WILSON. Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to this amendment because it is wrong and based on bad science. This has nothing to do with politics here in Washington. It has everything to do with public health in the American West.

The Environmental Protection Agency proposed to reduce the arsenic standard in water from 50 parts per billion to something lower. Then right at the last moment before the change in administrations, they set that level at 10 parts per billion. I think it is important to start out by understanding what small amount we are talking about. A part per billion means nothing to me. But this is what it is: in 32 years' time we are talking about the difference between 10 seconds and 50 seconds. That is

the kind of levels we are talking about, detecting what the public health effects are in that small a difference.

The fact is we know very little about the effects of arsenic on people at low levels. It is broadly acknowledged that high levels of arsenic cause cancer. But we do not know what happens at low levels of arsenic. There is a terrible public health consequence that will affect rural water systems.

The EPA estimates that there are 3,500 rural water systems that would be effected by this. It is not about the timber industry. It is not about mining. It is about naturally occurring arsenic in the West. Arsenic is organic in the soil in the West because of our volcanic soils. In the State of New Mexico we have about 150 rural water systems where the naturally occurring arsenic level is about 10 parts per billion but below the current standard. They are in small parts, small communities all

over New Mexico.

The gentleman wants to ignore the lack of scientific evidence at low levels [Page: H4745]

of arsenic and just impose this rule without reviewing it. Guess what that means for me in New Mexico? That means the rural water system in San Ysidro, New Mexico will have to take out a loan of $2 million in order to meet the new standard. There are only 80 families served by that water system.

What that means is they are going to lose their rural water supply in San Ysidro, in Placitas, in Alto, in Cloudcroft. That does not help public health. The thing that is inexplicable about this is we have been living in New Mexico for hundreds and hundreds of years, and yet we have disproportionately low occurrences of the diseases associated with arsenic.

It is naturally occurring in our water and our soil, and yet the things that people are afraid of we have less of in New Mexico than in other parts of the country where there is no arsenic.

When I get up in the morning, I take vitamins. I take vitamins with iron. Most women do. If my daughter were to get into my vitamin bottle and take a lot of those vitamins, she could get really sick. But at low levels, they are healthy and we need them to survive.

We do not know what the health affects are of arsenic in very low levels. We do know that if we set that standard so low, we will force rural water systems to close and we will go back to having untreated water with wells.

There have been a number of scientific studies, some of which are selectively used by the Environmental Protection Agency. Most of them were done abroad. Very few of them deal with arsenic at low levels. There was only one in the State of Utah that looked at naturally occurring organic arsenic and the effect on the population. And while it was a small study, the only one funded by EPA in creating this rule, they ignored it because it was a small population. And yet the results showed that in

that town in Utah, even though they have high levels of naturally occurring arsenic, they have very low levels of the diseases associated with arsenic and have for generations.

Mr. Chairman, it does not make any sense. That is why it does make sense to look at the science behind the rules.

Now, we think 20 parts per billion, 10 parts per billion, it does not make a big difference. But it does. It costs twice as much in capital costs to set up a water plant to treat down to 10 parts per billion as it does to 20. In my State of New Mexico, we are talking about a minimum of $300 million in capital investment, and then it costs more to take care of the water and operate it.

In closing, Mr. Chairman, I would like to read a letter from a gentleman in Cloudcroft, New Mexico. It says,

I am the president, water boss, chief hole digger, fixer of leaks, certified small system operator of Silver Springs Water Association located near Cloudcroft, New Mexico. We are in the Lincoln National Forest, Sacramento Mountains at an elevation of about 9000 feet. We have no landfills, junk yards, Mafia burial grounds, large cemeteries, nuclear reactors, industry of any kind, sewage disposal plants, or anything which is a threat to our drinking water. Rain falls on our forests, trickles down

into cracks and crevices and replenishes our water table. We gather our water from a spring and distribute it to about 25 homes. Before us, the Mescalero Apache Indians did the same.

Mr. Chairman, this is a wrong-headed amendment for policy reasons, and I urge that this House reject it.

12:03 PM EDT

Jim Gibbons, R-NV 2nd

Mr. GIBBONS. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman for yielding me time.

For those of my colleagues who seem lost in the haze of rhetoric that we have heard from the other side that seems to surround the issue of arsenic, let me say that arsenic has nothing to do with oil, it has nothing to do with prescription drugs. Arsenic is a naturally occurring component in groundwater, particularly in the Western States, like Nevada, the one I represent.

There are communities in my State that have 100 parts per billion naturally occurring arsenic in the water. People have been drinking it for 5 and 6 generations, living decades into their 80s and 90s, with no ill-effects, like my colleague from New Mexico has said, of the current indicators that have been heard about by the fact that arsenic exists there.

The gentleman from Michigan should know that local communities in the district that I represent in Nevada want nothing more than to provide safe drinking water for everyone, and especially to the citizens of their communities.

But the gentleman should also know that before these small communities in my district can go out and build $10 million and $20 million water treatment plants, they want assurance that the EPA's mandated arsenic standards are based on sound science and accurate costs and benefit analysis. I do not know if anyone can tell me whether it is trivalent or pentavalent arsenic which is the high component in anybody's water that has the effect they are talking about.

But, keep in mind, if we implement such strict standards, and it is of such importance, as it is to this administration as well, then why did the previous administration under Mr. Clinton put this in place on his way out the door, and not 8 years ago when he came in prior to that? If this was such an important issue, I do not know and I am not sure anyone knows why they did not implement the new standards 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 years ago.

Mr. Chairman, this administration is committed to a stricter arsenic standard, and I support the implementation of a stricter standard. Mayors in Nevada and small communities, who have high levels of arsenic in their water, support stricter standards. But meeting the 25 parts per billion standard will cost our small communities millions of dollars to comply with; meeting a 15 parts per billion standard will cost even more; and meeting stricter standards will virtually bankrupt every small community.

I commend Administrator Whitman for taking a good, hard look at the politically motivated standard put in place by the outgoing Clinton Administration. Certainly, we should not be undercutting the hard work that she and her agency has put into this important issue.

Let us allow the EPA to complete its science review of arsenic standards, and let us vote no on Mr. BONIOR'S amendment.

12:07 PM EDT

Jim Gibbons, R-NV 2nd

Mr. GIBBONS. Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the gentleman's response to that. Certainly the California and Nevada Water Users Association has endorsed stricter standards, but the fact is that science does not tell us exactly at what level that standard should be and it has not looked at it from a cost-benefit analysis or operating cost.

They do want strict standards, they do want to lower it. As I have said, the mayors and all the water-user communities in my State want to have lower standards, but we also want the science to show exactly what standard we are going to and what the cost is going to be for these people.

12:07 PM EDT

Jim Gibbons, R-NV 2nd

Mr. GIBBONS. Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the gentleman's response to that. Certainly the California and Nevada Water Users Association has endorsed stricter standards, but the fact is that science does not tell us exactly at what level that standard should be and it has not looked at it from a cost-benefit analysis or operating cost.

They do want strict standards, they do want to lower it. As I have said, the mayors and all the water-user communities in my State want to have lower standards, but we also want the science to show exactly what standard we are going to and what the cost is going to be for these people.

12:08 PM EDT

George Miller, D-CA 7th

Mr. GEORGE MILLER of California. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman for yielding me time, and I certainly want to join my colleagues on this side of the aisle who have spoken in support of the gentleman's amendment to preclude this administration from weakening the arsenic standard.

The chairman of the subcommittee suggested that if this amendment passes, nothing changes. Oh, yes, something changes. What changes is we will stop seeing the EPA administrator, as she did yesterday, suggesting that she may weaken the standard; because if Congress overwhelmingly supports this amendment, the message will come from the House of Representatives that we want the standard to go forward, we want a standard to go forward that protects the American people from increased arsenic in their

water supply, and we want the administration to quit fooling around with the special interests for the purposes of weakening this standard. Because that is what the EPA administrator, Ms. Whitman, said yesterday in the newspaper, that quite possibly this standard will be weakened.

That is exactly what the National Academy of Sciences suggested we not do. What the National Academy of Sciences suggested we do is the arsenic had to be reduced, and it had to be reduced as promptly as possible. Now what we see after years of work, after years of scientific study, after years of public comment, after years of the process going forward as it should, now the suggestion is somehow that we need good science.

Nobody has suggested that this is bad science. Nobody has suggested that. But the offering is now somehow we need good science so we can further delay this activity. The suggestion is somehow this amendment should not go forward because it would be a rider. Well, let me say, it would be nice to have a rider once in the public interest, because what we spend most of our time doing around here is fighting off riders that are added on to appropriations bills that are there for the special interests,

that attack the environment, that attack the kind of regulation to protect the health and safety of the American people and their families in this country.

So, yes, I would hope finally we support a rider that defends the public interest and seeks to protect children and to protect families from increased arsenic in the water supply.

12:15 PM EDT

David E. Bonior, D-MI 10th

Mr. BONIOR. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume to respond to the gentlewoman from New Mexico. I want to inform my friend that there are many people on our side of the aisle who have naturally occurring arsenic in our own States and in our own communities. Michigan is a good example of that. We have a doughnut that extends from Washington County to Ann Arbor that runs up to the top of what we call the ``thumb,'' where we have many, many naturally occurring arsenic components

in well water.

So the gentlewoman is not the only one that has this particular problem, nor is the gentleman from Nevada.

The second point, in response to my colleague from New Mexico, is this: This is not just one National Academy of Science study. They have had six studies. This has been going on, as we have heard repeatedly now, for 25 years. This science has been looked at not only here in this country but abroad.

Mr. Chairman, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from Michigan (Mr. KILDEE), a person who has this in his particular constituency in a naturally forming way.

12:17 PM EDT

Dale E. Kildee, D-MI 9th

Mr. KILDEE. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman for yielding me this time.

Mr. Chairman, I rise today in support of the Bonior-Waxman-Obey-Brown-Kildee amendment for the fiscal year 2002 VA-HUD appropriations bill.

This amendment will restore implementation of reasonable arsenic reductions in drinking water, and it is time to address this very important health problem.

In some areas of my district in Michigan, we have a very high occurrence of unhealthy arsenic content in public drinking water systems and individual wells. I have heard too many stories of the negative health effects suffered by my constituents, and I believe we should move quickly to rectify this problem.

The current arsenic standards of 50 parts per million was developed in 1942, before President Bush was born, and it does not represent a public health standard consistent with our responsibility to ensure the health and welfare of citizens nationwide. We have learned much about arsenic since 1942.

The Clinton administration spent years studying the issue; and, in 1999, the National Academy of Science again affirmed the public health threat of 50 parts per million arsenic levels. Despite National Academy of Science's affirmation of our position, the Bush administration has unwisely delayed implementation of this health protection.

It is inaccurately suggested that the rulemaking was rushed. This is simply not so. This rulemaking is a result of years of study and public comment. The time for studies and delays has passed. The time for healthy drinking water is here. This Congress owes this to our people.

Mr. Chairman, I urge all of my colleagues to support this amendment.

12:19 PM EDT

Rosa DeLauro, D-CT 3rd

Ms. DELAURO. Mr. Chairman, the Bonior amendment simply prevents the Environmental Protection Agency from further delay or weakening of the arsenic standards for our drinking water. That is it.

We know that there are dangers in arsenic. We have known that for centuries. We know it is toxic. We know it is a carcinogen. It is found in the drinking water of millions of Americans. There have been many studies that show that it endangers our health, our children's health. The National Academy of Science has said it causes several forms of cancer, it causes heart disease and lung disease. In 1999, they further reported that the old standard ``requires downward revision as promptly as possible.''

It could easily result in a total of a fatal cancer rate of 1 in 100.

Mr. Chairman, I say to my colleagues, there is not any question about it, arsenic is a killer.

So, what happened here in 1996? Oftentimes, people say that the Congress never acts to do anything. The Congress acted. It addressed this issue. It required the EPA to issue a safer arsenic standard and to issue a new regulation by January 1, 2001. That standard was put into place by the previous [Page: H4750]

administration. But facing the pressure from its friends in the chemical industry and in the energy industries, the Bush administration delayed it for another

9 months and requested additional studies.

Mr. Chairman, how many studies do we need? We know what the standards should be. We have been looking at this for years. The fact is that 56 million Americans today drink tap water with excessive levels of arsenic. How many people have to develop cancer before the administration moves on this issue?

Let us strengthen our standards for our drinking water. Let us not delay. Why do we want to jeopardize the health of our children, our families any longer?

It is time for a stringent arsenic standard. I urge my colleagues to vote ``yes'' on this amendment.

12:22 PM EDT

Jay Inslee, D-WA 1st

Mr. INSLEE. Mr. Chairman, I support this amendment because I think it will help restore Americans' trust in their government.

There is a sad context of this debate which is that, unfortunately, the administration has poisoned the well of environmental consideration in this country.

When an administration tries to make it easier to use cyanide for mining waste, when it makes it easier to clear-cut international forests, when it backtracks on its climate change commitments to the world, when it tries to drill in our national monuments, how can we expect the American people to trust it when it sets an arsenic level for the water we drink?

We need this administration and this Congress to try to heal the breach and the lack of trust of Washington, D.C., right now and the administration policies on environmental measures. There is two ways to do that. Number one, pass this amendment. Number two, next week when our energy bill is on the floor, do not vote for a rule unless it lets a full group of environmental amendments to this energy policy to come to consideration of this House.

I hope that this weekend Members will think about what rule they are going to support. We need to have environmental decisions made by this House.

12:22 PM EDT

Jay Inslee, D-WA 1st

Mr. INSLEE. Mr. Chairman, I support this amendment because I think it will help restore Americans' trust in their government.

There is a sad context of this debate which is that, unfortunately, the administration has poisoned the well of environmental consideration in this country.

When an administration tries to make it easier to use cyanide for mining waste, when it makes it easier to clear-cut international forests, when it backtracks on its climate change commitments to the world, when it tries to drill in our national monuments, how can we expect the American people to trust it when it sets an arsenic level for the water we drink?

We need this administration and this Congress to try to heal the breach and the lack of trust of Washington, D.C., right now and the administration policies on environmental measures. There is two ways to do that. Number one, pass this amendment. Number two, next week when our energy bill is on the floor, do not vote for a rule unless it lets a full group of environmental amendments to this energy policy to come to consideration of this House.

I hope that this weekend Members will think about what rule they are going to support. We need to have environmental decisions made by this House.