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News >  Idaho

Water Bill Has Wide Support Kempthorne Leads Revision Of Safe Drinking Water Act

Sen. Dirk Kempthorne, R-Idaho, has won bipartisan support for his new version of the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Kempthorne, chairman of the Senate subcommittee on Drinking Water, Fisheries and Wildlife, has spent nine months rewriting the bill, which is up for reauthorization. His changes include exceptions for small water systems that cannot afford to meet large-system standards; $1 billion in federal grants for states, which can pass them on to local water systems as grants or loans; and a new process for setting drinking water standards that includes weighing the costs against the benefits.

Co-sponsors of Kempthorne’s bill include Sens. Bob Kerrey, D-Neb.; Max Baucus, D-Mont.; Harry Reid, D-Nev.; John Chafee, R-R.I.; and nine other Republicans.

“Public health is not a partisan issue,” Kempthorne said. “Congress must ensure that the water Americans drink is safe and affordable, while making wiser use of government resources.”

The bill will have a committee hearing Oct. 19.

In an interview last week, Kempthorne said a drinking water bill passed the Senate 97-3 last year, but was too late for action by the House. “Now that I’m chairman of that subcommittee, I could’ve taken last year’s bill, sent it back through and gotten a big victory,” he said. But Kempthorne chose instead to rework the bill significantly.

His new version has been endorsed by the National Governors Association, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National League of Cities, the National Conference of State Legislators, the Rural Water Association and the Association of State Drinking Water Administrators.

Another environmental effort of Kempthorne’s is not winning such wide support, so far.

Leaders of Idaho environmental groups, who gathered at a press conference in Boise Thursday to denounce Kempthorne’s plans to rewrite the Endangered Species Act, said they don’t think Kempthorne’s ESA legislation will have the bipartisan appeal of his drinking water bill.

“He’s not going the same direction,” said John McCarthy of the Idaho Conservation League.

, DataTimes

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