BEACH PROTECTION ACT OF 2007 -- (House of Representatives - April 10, 2008)
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Ms. EDDIE BERNICE JOHNSON of Texas. Madam Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Madam Chairman, I rise in strong support of H.R. 2537, the Beach Protection Act of 2007. This legislation extends the authorization of appropriations for the Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health Act, the BEACH Act, through 2012. First signed into law in October 2000, the BEACH Act has provided States, local governments and tribes vital funding for assessment and public notification programs that monitor our coastal waters.
Over the years, the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment has held numerous hearings on EPA's BEACH program. In fact, the history of the BEACH Act goes back to 1990 when Congressman William Hughes of New Jersey first introduced the Beaches Environmental Assessment, Closure and Health Act of 1990. I applaud his vision for effective coastal water quality criteria and public notification, as well as the efforts of Congressman Pallone and Congressman Bishop, the primary sponsors of this legislation, to carry forward this legacy.
As reported by the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, the Beach Protection Act of 2007 increases the annual authorization level for State and local monitoring and notification grants by $10 million and expands the eligible uses for grants under
this program. For example, H.R. 2735 allows States to utilize a portion of their BEACH grant funding to develop and implement pollution source identification and tracking programs for coastal recreation waters, which will enable interested States to locate the likely sources of coastal water contamination.
H.R. 2537 also encourages the development and implementation of rapid testing methods for determining where and when coastal recreational waters exceed coastal water quality criteria. These rapid testing methods are designed to ensure that the public is notified of potential harmful recreational waters within a few hours, rather than days as under the current system. This provision will have a significant impact on efforts to protect the public from coming into contact with potentially harmful pollutants and contaminants at their favorite beaches.
In addition, H.R. 2537 enhances existing public notification requirements, including making beach warnings and closures available on the Internet. The bill clarifies that the public must be notified within 24 hours of the authority receiving results of contaminated water quality samples. However, because many States utilize a system where two contaminated samples must be identified before a beach is closed, H.R. 2537 also requires that a physical sign must be posted at any beach where the results of a water quality sample demonstrate the likelihood that the water may be contaminated. Again, providing more information and notice on the condition of the Nation's coastal water quality is essential to ensure that the public can avoid contact with potentially harmful pollutants while visiting their favorite beach.
The bill also enhances EPA's review of individual States' compliance with the requirement of the BEACH Act by requiring the Administrator to conduct an annual review of implementation of the BEACH Act by State and local governments and to take corrective action if State and local governments are not in compliance with BEACH Act requirements. It also requires the Government Accountability Office to audit EPA's administration of the BEACH Act.
Finally, the bill requires EPA to conduct annual compliance reviews of State and local BEACH programs.
Later today I plan to offer a bipartisan manager's amendment to the bill to address several technical recommendations made by the Environmental Protection Agency and others that will improve the bill. I strongly urge my colleagues to support the manager's amendment and the underlying legislation that I believe will make significant improvement to EPA's BEACH program.
Much of our efforts are to provide additional safeguards for our families to make sure that they do not come into contact with potentially harmful pollutants and contaminants along the Nation's coastlines. I believe this legislation accomplishes what we tried to do.
Madam Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.
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