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Pallone Floor Remarks on Safe Drinking Water Act Updates

Sep 13, 2018
Press Release

Energy and Commerce Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) delivered the following remarks on the House Floor today during consideration of America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018:

Our nation’s public drinking water systems serve over 300 million people but aging and failing infrastructure threatens access to safe drinking water in communities large and small.  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that our water systems will require $472 billion for infrastructure repairs over the next 20 years, but investment simply has not kept pace with the need. 

This bill reauthorizes the Safe Drinking Water Act State Revolving Fund for the first time in 20 years and provides significant new funding to state and local governments in dire need.  The bill nearly doubles the authorized funding –from $1 billion to $1.95 billion in 2021—and increases funding for Public Water System Supervision grants to states.

Important provisions in the bill ensure that this money gets to the communities that need it most, by raising the cap on special assistance to disadvantaged communities under the State Revolving Fund and setting a floor for such assistance to guarantee help for those communities.  

I want to thank Representative Tonko, the ranking member of our Environment Subcommittee, who has led the effort to reauthorize and improve the State Revolving Fund for many years.  Many of the provisions in this bill were incorporated from the AQUA Act, which he authored. 

The bill also contains a provision first introduced by myself and Representative Rush establishing a grant program for replacing leaded drinking water fountains in schools and requiring for the first time a national inventory of lead service lines and the costs to replace them. 

The bill contains Representative Dingell’s provision to make drinking water quality reports to consumers more frequent, comprehensive, and understandable. 

Significantly, the bill incorporates Representative Peter’s provision to assist systems with resiliency to extreme weather, and it establishes new requirements to assess and address vulnerabilities to those threats.  It also provides $100 million for grants to extend access to safe drinking water into areas impacted by natural disasters, responding to concerns raised by Representative Green.

Additionally, the bill contains language championed by Representative McNerney authorizing a WaterSense program to encourage consumer product water efficiency. And, it authorizes “Buy America” requirements for iron and steel products for five years.

This bill won’t solve all of our drinking water challenges, but it makes important improvements and delivers real benefits.          

I’m also pleased that this final bipartisan bill includes important energy provisions that I pushed to include.  Among them are provisions authored by Representatives Kennedy, DeGette, and Peters. 

All in all, the drinking water and energy titles of this bill are critical, significant steps forward that will benefit American families, industry and the environment.  America’s Water Infrastructure Act is a victory for all of us, and I urge my colleagues to support the legislation.