Following are descriptions of the bills approved by the Environment and Public Works Committee during today’s business meeting. The measures now go to the full Senate for consideration.
Ensuring the Safety of the Nation’s Infrastructure
- H.R. 3999, the National Highway Bridge Reconstruction and Inspection Act of 2008, requires the Department of Transportation to develop a national risk-based priority system for the repair, rehabilitation or replacement of each structurally deficient or functionally obsolete bridge. The measure also improves bridge inspection requirements and authorizes $1 billion for bridge improvements.
- H.R. 3224, the Dam Rehabilitation and Repair Act, amends the National Dam Safety Program Act and requires the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to establish a program to provide grant assistance to states for use in rehabilitating deficient dams. The bill authorizes $200 million through 2012.
- The Water Infrastructure Financing Act will assist states in making low-interest loans to local communities to construct wastewater treatment facilities to treat wastewater and drinking water. It also revises and makes improvements to existing grant programs and provides incentives for improved water conservation and efficiency.
- S. 2080, the Sewage Overflow Right-to-Know Act, requires and authorizes funding for monitoring, reporting and public notification when sewage overflows into communities.
Protecting the Public from Lead Exposure and Air Pollution
- The Protect Pregnant Women and Children from Dangerous Lead Exposures Act of 2008, which was sponsored by Senator Boxer, requires EPA to use the best available science to set a new standard that protects the most vulnerable in society from the dangerous impacts of lead. Lead is a toxin that harms the nervous and reproductive systems, and is especially dangerous for infants and young children. The committee also passed an amendment sponsored by Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) which furthered the protections and standards for cleanup of lead paint.
- The Air and Health Quality Empowerment Zone Designation Act of 2008 authorizes the EPA to create air quality empowerment zones in the San Joaquin Valley (CA), where citizens face severe air pollution problems.
The Restoring the Value of Every American in Environmental Decisions
In July, news media reported that EPA had reduced the monetary value it assigns to a single human life when making regulatory decisions by almost $1 million over the past five years. The Restoring the Value of Every American in Environmental Decisions Act of 2008 requires EPA to restore the value the agency places on protecting human beings, and to regularly update that value based on the best available data, through an open public process.
Taking Steps to Address Global Warming
S. 1387, the Federal Greenhouse Gas Registry Act, sponsored by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), builds on language in the 2008 Appropriations Act that required EPA to draft a rule for mandatory reporting of greenhouse gas emissions in all sectors of the U.S. economy. S. 1387 clarifies which facilities are covered, and adds more detailed requirements regarding data collection, reporting, verification, and enforcement.
S. 2970, the Climate Change Drinking Water Adaptation Research Act, sponsored by Senator Harry Reid (D-NV), provides for a 10-year research program on global warming’s impacts on water supplies and strategies for adapting to them. Global warming threatens safe drinking water supplies, especially in areas such as California that depend on snowmelt to fill reservoirs.
S. 3489, sponsored by Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY), requires the EPA Administrator to conduct a study on “black carbon” emissions in the U.S. and worldwide. Black carbon, or soot, is a potent cause of global warming.
Conserving Endangered Species
- H.R. 1464, The Great Cats and Rare Canids Act of 2008, provides financial assistance and establishes a fund under the Multinational Species Conservation Fund to conserve certain species of threatened and endangered great felids (cats) and rare canids (wild members of the dog family). The bill also directs the Secretary to complete a study and report to the Congress on the conservation status of many of these species.
- H.R. 1771, The Crane Conservation Act, establishes a fund under the Multinational Species Conservation Fund to conserve threatened and endangered species of cranes. The crane species that receive conservation assistance under this bill have lost valuable habitat and are impacted by other environmental stressors including global warming and pollution.
Revitalizing American Communities
The Economic Development Revitalization Act of 2008, helps communities in distress by authorizing the Economic Development Administration (EDA) for an additional five years.
Completed in 1899, the Old Post Office Building in Washington, DC, is one of the oldest buildings in the city that has yet to be redeveloped and preserved. H.R. 5001, Old Post Office Building Redevelopment Act, directs the Administrator of the General Services Administration (GSA) to proceed with redevelopment of this building.
Studying the impacts of Ethanol
S. 1828 requires the EPA Administrator to conduct a study of the feasibility of increasing consumption in the United States of certain ethanol-blended gasoline.
Honoring Senator Warner
The Committee approved a bill to designate a portion of the Rappahannock River in Virginia as the “John W. Warner Rapids.” Senator Warner was engaged in the conservation and rehabilitation of this river, working with local stakeholders and conservation groups. In 2003, he directly participated in the destruction of Embrey Dam, giving the signal to set off 600 pounds of explosives, allowing more than 1,300 river and stream miles to flow unhindered. Senator Warner is retiring from the Senate at the conclusion of the 110th Congress.
The Committee approved 19 resolutions for General Services Administration projects.