Arizona AG Heads Effort to Oppose Biden’s Delay of Trump-Era EPA Lead Regulation

By Masooma Haq
Masooma Haq
Masooma Haq
August 4, 2021 Updated: August 4, 2021

Arizona’s Attorney General (AG) Mark Brnovich is leading a group of AGs in filing a petition challenging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s decision to postpone the Trump-era Lead and Copper Rule Revisions (LCRR).

“While the Biden Administration talks a lot about preserving clean air and water for future generations, they have failed to ensure clean drinking water for our children now,” Brnovich said in a press release on Friday.

On June 10, the EPA signed a final rule to extend the effective date of LCR Revisions to Dec. 16, 2021, to allow “the agency to continue conducting virtual engagements to gather valuable input from communities that have been impacted by lead and to seek feedback from national water associations, Tribes and Tribal communities, and EPA’s state co-regulators.”

The AGs argue that the “Delay Rule” is unlawful and will have “adverse health effects that exceed the reduced costs on water system operators,” and is an “illegal attempt to kill the LCRR through serial delays, rather than following the necessary procedures for an outright repeal.”

The Arizona Attorney General’s Office (AGO) said that the LCRR would have protected children from exposure to lead in water, a neurotoxin that can lead to damage in a child’s brain, causing developmental and behavioral issues.

According to the AGO, if the regulations had been finalized in January 2021, it would have added stricter protections against lead under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

mark brnovich
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich speaks at a news conference in Phoenix, Ariz., on Jan. 7, 2020. (Bob Christie/AP Photo)

“The “Delay Rule” thus postpones the effective date of important improvements in the regulation of lead in drinking water. … The crisis in Flint, Michigan, beginning in 2014, is a particularly acute reminder of the dangers posed by lead in drinking water.”

The AGs argue that the Trump lead regulation would make a difference in lead levels in the more immediate future.

“The LCRR would have imposed a new ‘trigger level’ at 10 parts per billion, which when exceeded would have ‘require[d] public water systems to initiate actions to decrease their lead levels and take proactive steps to remove lead from the distribution system,’” wrote the AGO.

Those who support the EPA’s delay rule, say that the Trump-era LCCR did not get rid of the issue of lead in the nation’s water pipes and still exposed communities to toxic lead in drinking water.

“The EPA review of the wholly ineffective Lead and Copper rule is welcome, but we have a long way to go to carry out President Biden’s promise to pull 100 percent of the nation’s lead pipes out of the ground. Lead was taken out of gas and paint in the 70s; it’s long past time to get this notorious poison out of our water, starting with communities of color that are disproportionately exposed to lead,” said Erik D. Olson, Senior Strategic Director for Health with Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

NRDC filed a lawsuit against the Trump LCRR in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit at the beginning of 2021 but the challenge is on hold while the EPA reviews the regulation.

Meanwhile, the bipartisan infrastructure bill allocates billions of dollars to begin replacing the nation’s lead pipes, which will take years.

“As a critical part of what will be the largest investment in clean drinking water in American history, the bipartisan infrastructure bill provides over $11 billion in additional general drinking water funding that states can apply toward the full replacement of all lead pipes and service lines in the country, for a total of over $26 billion. That’s nearly half of the deal’s full resources for clean drinking water, reflecting what a driving priority this is,” Andrew Bates, the deputy press secretary, said.

Masooma Haq
Masooma Haq