House approves bill to undercut the Clean Water Act
Steve Moyer, Vice President for Government Affairs, Trout Unlimited, 703-284-9406
Jan Goldman-Carter, Wetlands and Water Resources Counsel, National Wildlife Federation, 202-797-6894
Scott Kovaravics, Conservation Director, Izaak Walton League
Washington, DC Ė The U.S. House of Representatives voted yesterday to approve sweeping, harmful changes to the nationís bedrock water-quality protecting law, the Clean Water Act. In a 239-184 vote, the House passed H.R. 2018, a bill that will adversely affect waterways across the nation.
H.R. 2018, dubbed the The Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act of 2011, purports to strengthen "cooperative federalism" by giving the states more control over the Environmental Protection Agencyís (EPA) Clean Water Act oversight. In fact, the bill undermines the federal-state partnership on which the Clean Water Act is based. Introduced less than four weeks ago, the House of Representatives held no legislative hearings on the bill and rushed to approve it, apparently to avoid giving it the scrutiny it deserves.
"For 38 years, the Clean Water Act has provided protection for our nationís waters," said Steve Moyer, Vice President for Government Affairs at Trout Unlimited. "The Clean Water Act has led to immense progress nationwide on cleaning up our waters, restoring fish habitat, protecting drinking water sources, reducing wetlands loss, and developing water-based recreational economies. This bill weakens the power of the Clean Water Act and puts our lakes, rivers and streams at risk," Moyer said.
U.S. waters sustain the activities of 40 million anglers who spend about $45 billion a year, and about 2.3 million people spend $1.3 billion per year hunting ducks and other migratory birds. Sportsmen conservationists strongly oppose HR 2018 and urge the U.S. Senate to do a more thorough job of assessing the impacts of HR 2018 on the nationís waters before taking any action on this harmful bill.
The goal of the Clean Water Act is to "restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation's waters," was written at a time when lakes and rivers served as wastewater treatment plants and as dumping grounds for toxic, flammable chemicals. H.R. 2018 undermines the Clean Water Actís goal, and by extension, threatens to return our waters to the deplorable conditions of the past.
"This bill would undermine the use and enforcement of water quality standards, and allow our waters to become dumping grounds," said Jan Goldman-Carter, wetlands and water resources counsel for the National Wildlife Federation. "Not only would our countryís waters be at risk, but fish and wildlife would become collateral damage of this dangerous legislation," Goldman-Carter said.
"This bill would create a hodgepodge of water quality standards around the country," said Scott Kovarovics, Conservation Director, of the Izaak Walton League of America. "Some states will adopt stronger standards while others will choose weaker standards, while the waters of states with stronger standards may be polluted by water flowing from adjacent states with weaker standards," Kovarovics said.
H.R. 2018 attacks two critical components of the Clean Water Act: enforcement of water quality standards and protection of waters from discharges of dredged and fill material.
H.R. 2018 undermines the use and enforcement of water quality standards, the Clean Water Actís engines of water quality improvement and wildlife habitat protection.
H.R. 2018 would also limit the federal governmentís ability to compel states to implement or improve their water quality standards to deal with pollution and habitat- destroying activities.
The bill would also block the EPA from objecting to individual permits that fail to comply with water quality standards. For bodies of water that span multiple states, like the Great Lakes or Chesapeake Bay, federal oversight is needed to ensure one stateís weaker standards do not undermine progress in reducing pollution across the body of water.
The bill will next move for a vote in the U.S. Senate.