News Feature | January 26, 2021

Biden Administration Freezes Controversial Lead and Copper Rule Changes

Peter Chawaga - editor

By Peter Chawaga


As a new administration assumes executive power in the United States, perhaps no federal agency embodies the stark change in direction better than the one charged with governing drinking water, wastewater, and source water quality rules — particularly legislation like the federal Lead and Copper Rule (LCR).

As Former President Trump prepared to leave office, his administration issued several environmental rules that had not yet gone into effect as President Biden took office. As a result, Biden attempted to freeze those rule changes, including one that would slow the replacement of lead-based drinking water infrastructure.

“[A] memo from chief of staff Ron Klain puts a ‘freeze’ on all pending regulations that had not yet gone into effect, giving his own administration an additional 60 days to review how to proceed and whether to dismantle them,” The Hill reported. “The EPA’s updates to its lead and copper rule would … be subject to the order.”

The Lead and Copper Rule was established in 1991 to establish a maximum contaminant level of zero for lead in drinking water. The Trump administration’s update to the rule would require cities to quickly notify consumers who may be exposed to lead in their drinking water, but would also give them a seemingly dangerous amount of time — potentially up to 30 years — to actually replace the infrastructure that causes the contamination.

“Cities will now be required to replace just 3 percent of lead service lines each year rather than the previous 7 percent,” The Hill reported in a story about lawsuits being filed over the proposed changes. “The EPA will also require cities to do the replacements for two years, rather than just one.” [See an EPA-compiled comparison chart of LCR pre- and post-revision requirements here.]

Significant changes are expected at the EPA following Biden’s takeover, as they are at nearly every federal agency. While still a candidate, Biden nominated Michael Regan to become the agency’s administrator, and many assume this will mean a tightening of environmental regulations.

It seems likely that the new Lead and Copper Rule, along with many other Trump era rule changes and additions, will be altered once the Biden administration fully takes charge.

To read more about the rules that govern drinking water operations, visit Water Online’s Drinking Water Regulations And Legislation Solutions Center.