A study released last week reported that the carcinogenic hexavelent chromium, or chromium-6, is prevalent in drinking water around the country, and that San Jose ranked fifth in a study of 35 U.S. cities. Faced with these worrying statistics, California senators Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein have decided to act. According to the Associated Press, Senator Boxer plans to introduce legislation that would require the EPA to establish enforceable standards for the chemical in the nation’s tap water.
Boxer is well placed to do this. She chair’s the Senate’s Environment and Public works Committee, and as a representative of California, she represents two cities in the study’s top five—Riverside and San Jose. And she represents the town of Hinkley too, where Erin Brokovich first alerted the nation to the dangers of chromium-6.
The EPA is already responding. Spokesman Jalil Isa wrote that, “Ensuring safe drinking water for all Americans is a top priority for EPA,” the statement said. “The agency regularly reevaluates drinking water standards and, based on new science on chromium 6, had already begun a rigorous and comprehensive review of its health effects.”
Still, Boxer and Feinstein face a difficult fight ahead of them, especially in the new Congress. Just last week, Representative-elect Bill Flores (R-TX) gave an interview on Tea Party Internet radio, describing the attitude that he and his colleagues share about the EPA and regulation: “One of the reasons I wanted to get on Natural Resources is it puts me in the position, not my full jurisdiction over the EPA but I do have some jurisdiction there. I can tell you the House as a whole, the Republicans in the House as a whole want to get the EPA shut down on these bunny trails that’s going down that are throwing people out of work.”
Fellow Texan Jim Barton (R) is also in a position to make some waves. In his effort to head the House Energy and Commerce Committee he has also targeted the EPA, writing that, “The Environmental Protection Agency’s economy-strangling regulations are our foremost concern.” Not only does he want to upend the EPA’s power to regulate greenhouse gases. There are other EPA regulations that he wants overturned as well.
Hexavelent chromium has likely not appeared on these two men’s radar screens yet. Nevertheless, as blogger Jim Dipeso asks at David Frum’s FrumForum, “When did EPA become a four-letter word?” Dipeso goes on to point out that, “EPA was a Republican idea. EPA was initiated, supported, and led ably by Republicans. Republicans ought to be proud of what they created and what it has accomplished.” But that’s all ancient history, and it certainly doesn’t appear in the Texas School Board’s history curriculum.