The US Environmental Protection Agency today finalized its plan to delay until February,a rule that would strengthen standards for arsenic, a known carcinogen, in drinking water. The nine-month delay comes after the arsenic rule was already postponed 60ays from its original March 2001 effective date. Congress required EPA to establish a final rule by June 22, 2001, a deadline the agency will miss by eight months.
"Not only is EPA thumbing its nose at the legal deadline set by Congress," said Maria Weidner of Earthjustice, "it's also doing the American public a grave disservice by opting to delay and reconsider this important public health standard. The jury is in on arsenic's health effects -- we know it's a poison and we know it causes cancer."
In today's rule, the agency justifies missing its June deadline and ignoring the law by asserting its authority -- independent of statutory deadlines for promulgating final rules -- to establish appropriate effective dates. The delay also will postpone until February 2002 stricter federal reporting requirements to inform communities of the contamination levels of arsenic in their drinking water.
"The Bush administration is flouting the law by delaying the arsenic rule beyond the deadline set by Congress," said Joan Mulhern of Earthjustice. "It seems their lawyers think they can get off on a technicality by trying to debate the meaning of the words in the law -- 'promulgate a final rule.' This is almost like trying to debate what the meaning of the word 'is' is. The administration's callous dismissal of the deadline shows they believe themselves to be above the law."
"We know the mining industry doesn't want to see tougher arsenic standards," added Weidner. "The Bush administration is clearly more interested in keeping its corporate donors happy than it is in complying with Congress' directives."