The House Energy and Commerce Committee amended a drinking water bill May 26 to reduce its potential cost and to clarify that the legislation was not intended to expand the Environmental Protection Agency's authorities to regulate potential endocrine disruptors. The committee voted 45-1 to approve the revised Assistance, Quality, and Affordability Act of 2010 (H.R. 5320), which would amend the Safe Drinking Water Act. The lopsided vote reflected the success of discussions between Democrats and Republicans to work out compromises. The authorizations for financial assistance to drinking water systems were trimmed to $4.8 billion cumulatively over three years, from $14.7 billion over five years. The assistance would be channeled to states through the drinking water state revolving funds, which primarily provide low-interest loans to water utility projects selected by states. The committee amended the bill after Republicans objected to the scale of the assistance proposed during a time of large federal budget deficits.
The bill would authorize appropriations of $1.4 billion in fiscal year 2011, $1.6 billion in 2012, and $1.8 billion in 2013. The drinking water state revolving fund was funded at $1.387 billion in the current fiscal year. In recent years it typically has been funded at less than $1 billion. That amendment contained a rewrite of several sections of the bill and served as a full substitute for the bill that had emerged from a subcommittee. The bill also was revised to better define the scope and quality of EPA's screening program for substances that may disrupt the endocrine systems of humans. The legislation would require chemical manufacturers to test chemicals that may be found in sources of drinking water to which a substantial population may be exposed. Amendments Congress passed in 1996 to the Safe Drinking Water Act gave EPA the authority to order such tests, but it did not require the agency to do so.