Clean Water, Other Environmental Programs Gutted by House Vote
Very early Saturday morning, while most of the nation was sleeping, the U.S. House of Representatives approved an aggressive plan to slash the budgets of critical federal environmental programs.
After days of deliberations on the House floor, H.R. 1, also know as the Continuing Resolution (CR) passed 235-189. Essentially a party-line vote, only three Republicans voted against and not one Democrat voted in favor of the bill. A CR is needed to keep the government operating through the end of this fiscal year. Members of the Senate will take up the House CR when they return from a week-long recess on February 28th, though it is expected that Senate Democrats will propose extending the current CR (that expires on March 4th) to maintain fiscal year 2010 spending levels.
As passed, H.R. 1 slashed the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget by almost $3 billion (or 30%) from 2010 levels and included a provision that prohibits EPA from continuing its work to clarify which waters are protected under the Clean Water Act. Considering that the EPA’s annual budget is less than half of one percent of the entire annual federal budget, these steep cuts are an unnecessary assault on the agency. Moreover, the anti-Clean Water Act provision has absolutely nothing to do with saving federal dollars; in fact, new guidance or regulations to clarify which waters fall under federal jurisdiction would likely reduce costs to both the federal government and the regulated community. For example, under the current guidance, regulators are required to develop extensive administrative records to make “case-by-case” jurisdictional determinations for certain types of wetlands and streams. New guidance could eliminate this time consuming and resource intensive process.
In addition to this horrible anti-Clean Water Act provision, numerous amendments that eliminate critical clean water protections were approved in concert with the CR. Here is a summary of the some of the most egregious dirty water amendments:
Amendment 13 submitted by Rep. Rooney (FL-6) was approved 237-189 and blocks EPA from implementing a modest regulation to clean up manure, fertilizer and other nutrient pollution from Florida’s lakes and flowing waters.
Amendment 109 submitted by Rep. Griffith (VA-9) was approved 235-185 and blocks EPA from using its funding to implement or enforce new guidance for the review of water pollution from proposed coal-mining projects, including mountain-top removal mining.
Amendment 216 submitted by Rep. McKinley (WV-1) was approved 240-182 and prevents EPA from administering or enforcing section 404 (c) of the Clean Water Act, which governs dredge-and-fill permits.
Amendment 217 also submitted by Rep. McKinley (WV-1) was approved 239-183 and blocks EPA from developing or setting standards to classify coal ash as a hazardous waste under the Resource Conservation Recovery Act.
Amendment 498 submitted by Rep. Johnson (OH-6) was approved 239-186 and prevents the Administration from finalizing rules that would protect streams from coal waste.
Amendment 467 submitted by Rep. Goodlatte (VA-6) was approved 230-195 and blocks EPA from implementing the federally-mandated water pollution "diet" for the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.
The Environmental Community Reacts