Environment and Public Works Committee to respond to Elk River bill

March 31, 2014

WASHINGTON —The “Chemical Safety and Drinking Water Protection Act” would establish new chemical storage facility oversight.

WASHINGTON — Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) reiterated her plans to mark up legislation this week in response to January’s Elk River chemical spill in Charleston, W.V., according to a press release.

Speaking at the start of EPW’s March 26 hearing on EPA’s budget, Boxer said the committee will mark up a bill introduced by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.). Manchin’s bill (S. 1961, the “Chemical Safety and Drinking Water Protection Act”) would establish a new state-based chemical storage facility oversight program and require storage facilities to notify nearby water utilities about chemical inventories that could threaten drinking water supplies, noted the release.

The markup is expected to occur on April 2, the release reported.

Read more: WaterTech e-News Daily offers breaking news on West Virginia chemical spill

The Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA) and other water utility organizations have spent the past several months meeting with Senate staff to suggest improvements to the bill, such as requiring chemical facilities to immediately notify nearby water systems after discovering a spill into drinking water sources and providing liability protections to utilities that receive information about chemicals stored upstream, continued the release, although at this point it is unclear to what extent these recommendations might be incorporated into the bill or whether S. 1961 will receive bipartisan support at markup.

According to the release, in her comments last week, Sen. Boxer said she was “praying” that EPW would approve the bill in a bipartisan manner but also expressed confidence that S. 1961 would clear the panel with only Democratic support if necessary.

Read the full release here.

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