Washington, DC, April 23, 2001— The Competitive Enterprise Institute praised the Bush administration for its recent announcement that it will postpone the arsenic rule until 2002. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will use the time to reassess the underlying science. “Communities should not be forced into meeting an onerous standard that will force them to make sacrifices that could undermine public health,” said CEI’s Director of Risk and Environmental policy, Angela Logomasini.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
Perversely, the focus on reducing arsenic to ever lower levels actually could harm public health rather than advance it. “Even EPA's own Science Advisory Board noted that an overly expensive rule could undermine public health by diverting limited resources from things like basic nutrition,” said Logomasini. “In addition, high costs could force communities to disconnect water systems to avoid regulation – leaving the public to access water from potentially less safe drinking water sources,” she continued.
The costs of changing the standard from 50 parts per billion (ppb) to 10 ppb would be high. According to conservative EPA estimates, per household costs could reach $326 in some small systems. One community recently found that the Clinton standard would cost them $70 per household each month or $840 a year. Such burdens are simply to too high for many communities to bear.
The Bush administration’s decision not to pursue a more stringent rule, however, does not stop any communities from changing their own drinking water standards. “If communities wanted to meet a more stringent arsenic standard, they could implement one on their own,” said Logomasini. Localities are always free to choose stricter standards of their own – the issue is who should make the decisions, those who are directly affected or distant federal bureaucrats.
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