H.R. 2018 Un-doing the Clean Water Act

Action Alert

Please see this article by Steve Fleischi of the NRDC:

Not satisfied with merely trying to undo the Clean Air Act, the House
of Representatives has now decided to attack the federal Clean Water
Act with the introduction of H.R. 2018, which is slated for mark-up
tomorrow (Wednesday) in the House Transportation and Infrastructure
Committee.  The bill, sponsored by Congressman John Mica of Florida,
strips EPA of critical oversight authority that for decades has
resulted in improved water quality across the country.  And it’s not
just Republicans leading the charge.  Several Democrats, including
Representatives Nick Rahall (WV), Jason Altmire (PA) and Tim Holden
(PA), have co-sponsored the legislation.

The bill seems to be a reaction to EPA’s recent important efforts to
protect water quality in Florida, West Virginia, and on the Chesapeake
Bay.  But its impact is far broader than that.

Also called the “Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act of 2011,” H.R
2018 takes “cooperation” to a whole new level by stripping EPA of its
ability to protect national water quality without state-by-state
approval.  Among other things, the bill:

* Limits EPA’s ability to effectively implement or make necessary
improvements to state water quality standards to deal with modern
pollution challenges.
* Prevents EPA from improving numeric criteria for pollutants that
have led to dead zones in the Chesapeake Bay and Gulf of Mexico.
* Restricts EPA from upgrading standards for toxic pollutants
where narrative standards only provide very limited protection (a
common example being state standards that prohibit the “discharge of
toxic pollutants in toxic amounts”).
* Prevents EPA from vetoing state-issued Clean Water Act permits
even if EPA concludes those permits are not protective of water
quality.
* Blocks EPA’s ability to withhold federal funding to states even
if EPA determines the state’s implementation of water quality
standards is not protective of water quality.

Basically, H.R. 2018 takes the “federal” out of the federal Clean
Water Act and highlights a new disdain for the federal government’s
role in environmental protection.  Yet it is this federal law and
EPA’s oversight that have resulted in so many improvements to water
quality across America since the Clean Water Act’s passage in 1972.

The federal Clean Water Act provides a safety net for waterways across
the country, where states must implement minimum provisions to protect
water quality.  States can always do more if they so choose, but the
law recognizes that Americans deserve a minimum standard of protection
no matter where they live, and the Clean Water Act is designed to
prevent a “race to the bottom” in places where the benefits of clean
water may be ignored for short term economic or political gain.

By hamstringing EPA, H.R. 2018 would remove the most critical piece of
the puzzle and would take away this safety net.

Indeed, sponsors of the bill seem intent on taking us back to the
“good old days” of limited federal involvement when rivers like the
Cuyahoga caught fire and Lake Erie was declared dead – and when states
sued other states because pollution flowing from an upstream state
ruined a neighboring state’s waterway.  Yet these past horrors and the
legislative history of the Clean Water Act reveal why the federal role
was and remains so important:  before 1972 many states lacked any
approved water quality standards and national efforts to abate and
control water pollution were “inadequate in every vital aspect.”

I say this is the worse attack on the Clean Water Act in at least 15
years because it is hard to compare which is worse, the Dirty Water
Bill of 1995 or today’s H.R. 2018.  Both contained provisions to
paralyze EPA’s Clean Water Act duties – the Dirty Water Act under the
guise of cost-benefit analysis, H.R. 2018 under the guise of state’s
rights.   But one thing that is easy to see is that H.R. 2018 will
undermine almost 40 years of progress in cleaning up America’s
waterways, and it will remove America’s most vital safety net for
protecting water quality across all 50 states.

Please see the below link for original article:

http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/sfleischli/another_clean_water_act_