House votes to restore Clinton-era standards on arsenic in drinking water

Associated Press

WASHINGTON - The House voted yesterday to restore tougher arsenic limits that the Clinton administration established for drinking water but President Bush withdrew.

Nineteen Republicans joined Democrats in the 218-189 vote prohibiting the Environmental Protection Agency from using funds to lower the standards adopted as President Bill Clinton left office in January. The vote was the latest putting Congress at odds with the Bush administration on environmental policy.

"When you turn on the kitchen sink, you ought to be able to drink what comes out without worrying about being poisoned," said Rep. David Bonior, D-Mich., a chief sponsor of the amendment to a $112.7 billion spending bill for fiscal 2002.

Bush's EPA chief, former New Jersey Gov. Christie Whitman, withdrew the new standards in March, saying there was insufficient scientific evidence to justify the $200 million it would cost municipalities, states and industry each year to meet the new requirements by 2006.

Republicans who opposed the measure said the EPA had put the Clinton rule on hold only to make sure it was scientifically justified, and accused Democrats of putting politics before science.

"While President Bush is moving forward to strengthen the drinking standards for the American people based on sound science, some are more interested in scoring points for partisan politics based on sound bytes," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan. Whitman called the vote disappointing, saying EPA has begun studies to be completed in September that will allow for a more protective, affordable standard. *