Statement of Senator James M. Inhofe
Oversight Hearing on Perchlorate and TCE in Water
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Madam Chairman, thank you for calling the hearing today on perchlorate and trichloroethylene in water. This hearing is oversight in nature; however, the hearing will also focus on the legislative proposals found in S. 24, the “Perchlorate Monitoring and Right-to-Know Act of 2007,” S. 150, the “Protecting Pregnant Women and Children from Perchlorate Act of 2007,” and S. 1911, the “TCE Reduction Act of 2007.” I am opposed to all three of these pieces of legislation.
Each bill assumes that the scientific data and findings are complete and that they require the Environmental Protection Agency to establish a Maximum Contaminant Level, or MCL, within a specified amount of time for both perchlorate and TCE. My concern isn’t that these chemicals may be harmful to human health at a certain level, but rather that politicians feel compelled to introduce legislation forcing EPA’s hand on what could become a “contaminant of the month” scenario without scientific backing. It should also be noted that TCE already has a set MCL based on principals outlined in the Safe Drinking Water Act.
In 1996, under leadership of Chairman Chaffee and Ranking Member Baucus, Congress was successful in amending the Safe Drinking Water Act in such a way as to force the EPA to set standards if the contaminants “have known health effects,” are “known to occur in public water systems with a frequency and at levels of public health concern,” and will “provide EPA the opportunity for health risk reduction for persons served by a public water system.” The legislative approach taken in S. 24, S. 150, and S. 1911 is simply politicians meddling in the scientific process clearly laid out in the Safe Drinking Water Act. Mike Baker from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency will speak on behalf of the Association of State Drinking Water Administrators about the current process and the concern of legislating contaminants rather than following the process outlined in the Safe Drinking Water Act.
However, I agree that it is very important for our government to act in a timely manner as to produce reasonable and prudent regulations only when necessary for public health protection. It is no secret that the scientific process can be tedious and cumbersome, but that in itself is no reason for political interference. Our government must ensure that decisions are based on sound, transparent science and provide our constituents with easy-to-interpret information.
I also believe it is imperative for the American public to be able to understand health risk and exposure information so they can make more informed judgments as to what toxins or contaminants might actually pose a health risk to them or their children. Today we will hear numbers being referenced to in micrograms and parts per billion. The American public, not to mention myself, may have a difficult time comprehending these terms and their significance. It is vital for the scientific information the tax payers pay for is portrayed in a way that allows for cognitive decisions to be made in context.
Again, thank you for calling this hearing and I look forward to hearing from our witnesses.