WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, questioned witnesses on the implementation of the Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Act.
In her first round of questions, Ranking Member Capito discussed funding flexibility issues and safe drinking water standards with Radhika Fox, assistant administrator of the EPA’s Office of Water.
In her second round of questions, Ranking Member Capito asked Kathy Emery, director of West Virginia’s Department of Environmental Protection Division of Water and Waste Management, about state flexibility and challenges facing West Virginia’s water and wastewater infrastructure systems, including addressing PFAS.
HIGHLIGHTS OF FIRST ROUND OF QUESTIONING WITH EPA’S RADHIKA FOX:
ON HOW THE EPA DETERMINED A SAFE DRINKING WATER ACT STANDARD: “You came out several months ago, or maybe a year ago with was called a health advisory level for the PFOAs, which were so low that they were unmeasurable. Systems were unable to measure as to what the EPA would say would be a health advisory level. You come back now with the [Maximum Contaminant Level standard under the Safe Drinking Water Act] MCL, which I'm really pleased that we're here today to talk about that at four [parts per trillion]. And it's significantly higher than what you previously said the Health Advisory Level would be. I asked this question, how did you base…what science was the basis of for these health advisory levels? Yesterday, or the day before I got an 1,800 page response from you and the EPA, which was difficult to go through because it had a lot of attached reports and everything with it. What I'm worried about is the risk communication. What does this mean to somebody who's actually trying to determine if their system is safe? And how it's going to impact the health and the drinking water standards?”
ON MAINTAINING STATES’ FLEXIBILITY WITH WATER/WASTEWATER FUNDING: “What would you say to every state in terms of the retention of the flexibilities that's built into the systems on the revolving funds? Once those revolving funds leave D.C. and go to our states like West Virginia, is all the responsibility in the state then? I mean, that's what I would prefer…the states need to be in the driver's seats. The states are going to be able to make the best determinations.
“And I think what we've seen, not just at EPA, but also over transportation, is the administration is putting the foot on the pedal here in certain instances and suggesting certain parameters that then lead to I think our states wondering if we don't go the way that, you know, the EPA is saying that are we're going to have some kind of…I don't want to say penalty, but are we being guided by other issues that really would, if we were doing it on our own, we wouldn't be doing it quite this way. And so I think that's a cautionary tale.”
HIGHLIGHTS OF SECOND ROUND OF QUESTIONING WITH WV DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION’S KATHY EMERY:
PRESERVING STATE FLEXIBILITY CRITICAL TO ADDRESSING LOCAL NEEDS:
SENATOR CAPITO: “Ms. Emery, let's get to the flexibility issue. You heard me ask the Assistant Administrator Fox about this. There was a January 6 memo that EPA put out, a guidance memo, that encouraged and sort of sought to impose some of EPA’s priorities in select community investments. And this is what I what I was trying to say to her is exactly what you said much better in your statement. ‘Leave us the flexibility to do what we want and what we know is best for our communities as we tailor them.’ What kind of challenges and concerns do you have, that this EPA guidance may be trying to rein in some of your flexibility?”
WV DEP’S EMERY: “I'm a little concerned by that memo. It was a bit of a surprise.”
SENATOR CAPITO: “So, you could create your own plan as Congress intended, tailor to our state of West Virginia and into our small disadvantaged communities and smaller communities, because that's basically what we are in a lot of ways, very small communities, that you formulate all this, you get your technical expertise together, you formulate the plan, it goes to EPA, and then all of a sudden they come back with criteria you haven't seen to say, ‘but you're not doing this and this.’ Is that the concern? Am I hearing that correct?”
WV DEP’S EMERY: “That is my concern. I'm wondering where this memo is taking us at this point.”
ON CHALLENGES FACING WEST VIRGINIA’S WATER INFRASTRUCTURE SYSTEMS MOVING FORWARD:
SENATOR CAPITO: “What do you think our biggest challenge, specific to our state, in water infrastructure is for small and rural? Is it going to be the testing for PFAS as we see it come through? The destruction of PFAS? What are we going to do with it when we get it? How are we going to replace our filters?”
WV DEP’S EMERY: “I think the primary thing is affordability and sustainability for our communities.”
Click HERE to watch Ranking Member Capito’s first round of questions.
Click HERE to watch Ranking Member Capito’s second round of questions.
Click HERE to watch Ranking Member Capito’s opening statement.
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