The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is considering an update to a decades-old regulation that would help prevent lead from leaching into drinking water.
EPA Chief Scott Pruitt invited a slew of groups representing states to discuss possible provisions next year to the so-called Lead and Copper Rule. Updates to the rule never materialized for various reasons during the Obama administration.
“Despite lead contaminated sites being an environmental threat to our country, EPA has not updated the Lead and Copper Rule in decades,” Pruitt said in a press statement Thursday. He criticized former President Barack Obama earlier this year for supposedly not doing enough to address the Flint water crisis in 2015.
Officials switched the small Michigan city’s water supply in 2013 from Lake Huron to the Flint River in a bid to save money. The state applied the wrong regulations and standards for drinking water, which ultimately resulted in corroded pipes. Obama kicked off the rule’s revision process in 2010, but then ratcheted up the updates following the drinking water crisis.
Local activists argued that the EPA acted too slowly to confront the issue. Flint citizens eventually filed a lawsuit claiming the agency failed to take the proper steps to ensure state and local authorities were addressing the crisis. They sought a civil action lawsuit earlier this year for $722 million in damages.
“In keeping with our commitment to cooperative federalism, EPA is seeking input from state stakeholders on proposed revisions to properly address lead and ensure communities have access to safe drinking water,” Pruitt said Thursday, referring to a term he coined that requires the federal agency to take second fiddle to state regulators.
Pruitt criticized his predecessor, Gina McCarthy, and Obama in the past for focusing too narrowly on tackling climate change and not enough on state and local ecological disasters.
“Everyone looks at the Obama administration as being the environmental savior. Really? He was the environmental savior?” Pruitt asked a reporter in September before rattling off a list of examples where Obama’s EPA stumbled on environmental matters.
“Well, he left us with more Superfund sites than when he came in,” he said of Obama’s EPA. “He had Gold King [the 2015 mine wastewater spill] and Flint, Michigan [drinking water crisis]. He tried to regulate CO2 twice and flunked twice. Struck out. So, what’s so great about that record? I don’t know.”
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