Dirty Water Bills UPDATE: September 2012
Updated News on Dirty Water Bills: Believe it or not the vicious assault on clean water continues on Capitol Hill, right before Congress adjourns for the frenetic election season. This assault involves trying weaken laws that keep our drinking water and waterways clean. It is especially important that decision makers know that supporting anti-environmental legislation will turn back the clock to times of dirtier rivers, lakes, streams and coastal areas. They need to know that their constituents do not support dirty water!
LCV Statement Ahead of House Vote on Legislation Gutting Public Health Protections
WASHINGTON, DC– League of Conservation Voters (LCV) President Gene Karpinski released this statement ahead of the House of Representatives’ vote today on H.R. 3409, a package of five bills catering to big polluters that severely weakens essential public health safeguards Americans count on:
“The most anti-environment House of Representatives in history will spend its final day in session before the election passing legislation that is an assault on health and environmental safeguards Americans count on. Instead of addressing the serious challenges facing the American people, House members will vote on this extreme legislation catering to the big polluters that fund their campaigns—namely, their insistence that we remove commonsense limits on the mercury, carbon, and other pollution they can dump into the air we breathe and the water we drink.”
Sierra Club Press Release
U.S. House Wages War on Public Health
Passes Dangerous Package of Bills that Threaten Health and Safety of Americans
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Today, the House of Representatives passed a set of reckless and radical bills that would endanger millions of Americans around the country. Deceptively dubbed by Republicans as the “Stop the War on Coal Act,” the package of rules in fact declares a war on public health that threatens Americans’ lives and safety by rolling back critical laws and safeguards that hold polluters accountable and ensure Americans have access to clean air and drinkable water.
Among the more insidious parts of the bills, the legislation would:
- Gut the Clean Air Act by repealing life-saving clean air safeguards against deadly soot and smog pollution and eliminate any national protections for toxic mercury;
- Bar the Environmental Protection Agency from issuing safeguards for carbon pollution by redefining the term "air pollutant" to exclude greenhouse gases;
- Handcuff the Department of Interior from issuing safeguards to prevent streams from destruction if doing so would prevent the mining of a single lump of coal;
- Allow for the uninhibited dumping of toxic, carcinogenic coal ash while allowing coal companies to avoid fixing unsafe coal ash dumps, cleaning up the sites they have contaminated, or preventing another catastrophic disaster like the Tennessee TVA spill in 2008;
- Kill key pieces of the Clean Water Act that allow the EPA to enforce water quality standards and protect waterways from pollution;
- Roll back recently finalized vehicle fuel efficiency standards that will save drivers thousands at the pump, reduce our dependence on oil and create jobs in the auto industry.
In response, Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, issued the following statement:
“Republicans in the House of Representatives today launched yet another contemptible assault on Americans’ health and well-being. In a sweeping, scorched-earth campaign, they are seeking to lay waste to numerous public health protections critical to ensuring that American families have have safe air and clean water.
“This bill is a shameless, reckless and deadly assault on key safeguards Americans count on every day.
“On their way out the door from one of the least productive sessions of the U.S. House in history, Congressional Republicans proved once and for all that they hold the interests of dirty, outdated fossil fuel companies above those of everyday Americans.”
In Last Act Before Recess, House Passes Broad Assault on Public Health Protections
Congress pushes false choice between health and jobs
WASHINGTON, D.C.– Today the most anti-environmental U.S. House of Representatives in history passed a bill, H.R. 3409, that broadly guts many of our basic environmental and public health laws, including the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act, and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.
The following is a statement from Earthjustice Vice President of Policy and Legislation Marty Hayden:
“Instead of offering legislation that would bolster our economy or create jobs for hard-working Americans, our leaders in Congress are pushing a toxic bill that comes at the cost of public health and our most basic and long-held environmental protections.
“House leaders seem to think that the only way to put people back to work is to give polluters free rein to poison our water, air and natural resources. Not only does this bill fail to create jobs but it exposes Americans to dangerous pollutants that cause sickness and cancer. This wrongheaded initiative is a recipe for disaster for public health and our economy.
“The House majority is clearly out-of-touch with the serious concerns Americans have about their health and the economy. It’s time for our leaders to drop the political warfare and instead work on making America more competitive and secure by investing in clean energy industries that will define the future.”
Earthjustice (www.earthjustice.org) is a non-profit public interest law firm dedicated to protecting the magnificent places, natural resources, and wildlife of this earth, and to defending the right of all people to a healthy environment.
Previous News: CWN and clean water groups across the country oppose Section 119 of the Energy and Water Development 2012 Appropriations bill, which would bar the Army Corps of Engineers from restoring longstanding Clean Water Act protections to critical streams and wetlands across the nation. Section 110 would endanger America's waterways and put the interests of polluters over those of the public. CWN signed on to a letter (available HERE) urging Congress to support an amendment offered by Representative Jim Moran (VA) that would allow the Army Corps to do its job and clarify confusion around Clean Water Act protections.
Section 110 would block the Corps from moving forward to restore legal protections to these waters. While many Members of Congress have worked tirelessly to restore great waters, Section 110 would be an unequivocal setback for such waterways as the Great Lakes, the Chesapeake Bay, and Puget Sound. Moveover, Section 110 would create other harms as well. In the wake of the tragic flooding of the Mississippi River and Missouri River in recent years, we note that a typical acre of wetlands can hold roughly one million gallons of flood waters. Furthermore, Section 110 could jeopardize many headwater and other critical streams; those kinds of streams benefit more than 117 million Americans, who get at least some of their drinking water from systems that rely on such streams for all or part of their water supply. In the letter we respectfully requested that Congress reject Section 110 and support Representative Moran's amendment to enable the Corps to take administrative action to make the law's scope clear. This amendment will help the Army Corps safeguard drinking water sources from pollution, protect lives and protect our precious water resources nationwide.
In addition to Section 110, there is a flurry of dirty water bills floating around Capitol Hill that are trying to take us back to the pre-Clean Water Act days - back to when there was a fragmented patchwork of state clean water laws and no strong federal uniform standards. Read this opinion piece by Natalie Roy, which describes how these onerous bills are taking us back to the "Twilight Zone."
Dirty Water-Polluter Friendly Bills & Riders Include:
1. HR 2018, The Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act of 2011, would amend the Clean Water Act to "preserve the authority of each State to make determinations relating to the State's water quality standards and for other purposes."
Among other things, this dangerous piece of legislation would restrict EPA's ability to issue a revised or new water quality standard for a pollutant whenever a state has adopted - and EPA has already approved - a standard, unless the state concurs. In Florida, for example, EPA recently promulgated federal water quality standards over the state's objections. This legislation also would restrict EPA's ability to veto a Corps 404 permitting decision unless the state concurs with the veto. The bill would also prohibit EPA from superseding a water quality certification (that a discharge will comply with applicable water quality requirements) granted by a state under CWA section 401.
The bill was introduced by Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John L. Mica (R-FL) and the Committee's Ranking Member Nick Rahall (D-WV). Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Bob Gibbs (R-OH) and U.S. Shelly Moore Capito (R-WV) were among the bill's original cosponsors.
EPA recently completed an analysis of H.R. 2018 and concluded that it would "overturn almost 40 years of federal legislation by preventing EPA from protecting public health and the environment." The analysis also states that the bill would "fundamentally disrupt the balance established by the original Clean Water Act in 1972 -- a law that carefully constructed complementary roles for EPA, the Corps and the states."
July 13, 2011 UPDATE: H.R. 2018 passed the House, 239-184. To see how your Representative voted, click here.
Additional Information on H.R. 2018
White House Statement on H.R. 2018 - OMB (July 12, 2011)
Technical Assessment of H.R. 2018 - Environmental Protection Agency (June 21, 2011)
Oppose Dirty Water: H.R. 2018 Factsheet - CWN, AR, EJ, EA, NRDC, SC, SELC
H.R. 2018: A Brazen Attack on Clean Water - National Wildlife Federation
News Articles and Editorials on H.R. 2018
Another Dirty Water Act - New York Times (July 14, 2011)
An Assault on Clean Water and Democracy - Huffington Post (July 6, 2011)
U.S. House Committee to Passes Bill to Divest EPA of Water Program Oversight - WFPL News (June 22, 2011)
Water Bill Supported by Barletta Stirs Fight - The Times Leader (July 3, 2011)
Rahall Touts Bill to Force EPA to Back Off - Metro News (July 11, 2011)
Keep it Clean - The Miami Herald (July 4, 2011)
Don't Pollute Clean Water Act - Tampa Bay Online (July 8, 2011)
Congressman Bill Shuster Loves that Dirty Water Bill - Philadelphia Examiner (July 7, 2011)
Measure Would Restrict Waterway Protection - The Altoona Mirror (July 6, 2011)
Environmental Deregulation Bill Causes Concern - Ocean City Today (July 8, 2011)
Congress Considers Muddying Clean Water Act - Philadelphia Daily News (July 5, 2011)
EPA Warns House Bill Would "Overturn" Clean Water Law - NY Times via Greenwire (June 23, 2011)
Mica introduces act dubbed a "Dirty Water Bill" by conservation advocate - The Florida Independent (June 16, 2011)
Dirty Water! It's a State's Right! - Mother Jones (June 22, 2011)
Congress: Let's Just Rename it the "Dirty Water Act" - Grist (June 23, 2011)
Op-Eds on H.R. 2018
Bill Threatens to Taint Clean Water - Knoxville News (July 2, 2011)
Nation Doesn't Need 50 Water Rules - St. Augustine.com (June 29, 2011)
Dan Radmacher: Leave the Clean Water Act Alone - The Charleston Gazette (June 24, 2011)
Uncommon Sense: Murky Waters - The Lewisboro Ledger (July 7, 2011)
Goldsmith: Stand Up for Clean Water Rules - Asbury Park Press (July 5, 2011)
Blogs on H.R. 2018
House Committee Launches Most Significant Attack on Clean Water Act in at Least 15 Years - Steve Fleischli, NRDC
H.R. 2018 Subverts National Clean Water Act Protections - Ed Hopkins, Sierra Club
Dirty Water Bills in the House - Stacey Detwiler, American Rivers
Clean Water? Let Rick Scott Decide - Daily Kos
Don't Water Down the Clean Water Act - John H. Adams, NRDC
House Committee Rushes to Gut Clean Water Act - Who Voted for Dirty Water? - Jon Devine, NRDC
Plans to Repeal the Clean Water Act - Scott Slesinger, NRDC
EPA Tells It Like It Is On H.R. 2018 - The Dirty Water Bill - David Beckman, NRDC
H.R. 2018 Opposition Letters
July 11, 2011 Sign-On Letter to House of Representatives - Water Protection Network, Clean Water Network and many others
June 20, 2011 Letter to T&I Committee - Environment Community
June 21, 2011 Letter to T&I Committee - Sportsmen Community
Support the Bishop Amendment - Environment Community
FIFRA (Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act) regulates the sale and use of pesticides but does not provide protections tailored to the conditions in specific bodies of water. Relying only on that law would cause a dangerous vacuum in protecting human health and ecosystems. Pesticides discharged into our waterways harm aquatic life and contaminate drinking water supplies. This legislation seeks to undo an important 2009 federal appeals court ruling in National Cotton Council v. U.S. EPA. The court found EPA's pesticide permitting under FIFRA insufficiently regulated pesticide users who discharge into waterways. The court ordered EPA to begin issuing permits under the water pollution law. The court decision provided needed protection for water quality.
If signed into law, this bill would cause irreparable damage to our precious water resources. It will also cost significant resources to clean up the polluted waterways that will inevitably result.
June 21, 2011 UPDATE: The Senate Agriculture Committee approved H.R. 872 during a closed-door business meeting. Out of the eight committee members that voted, only two opposed the legislation - Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Kristen Gillibrand of New York, who was not present at the mark-up but issued a recorded vote. The bill now goes to the Senate floor for a vote.
Additional Information on H.R. 872:
Frequently Asked Questions on EPA's draft NPDES Pesticides General Permit (PGP) - Environmental Protection Agency
Keeping Our Waters Safe: The 112th Congress Must Not Strip the EPA's Duty to Protect Our Waters from Pesticides - NRDC and San Francisco Baykeeper
National Cotton Council v. EPA - United States Court of Appeal (6th Circuit)
News Articles on H.R. 872:
Cardin Leads Fight Over Pesticides - The Baltimore Sun
Blogs on H.R. 872:
Letting Pesticide Sprayers Ignore the Clean Water Act - Mae Wu, NRDC
H.R. 872 Opposition Letters:
March 29, 2011 Sign-on Letter - Clean Water Network
H.R. 872: Support Letters:
See the attached misguided letter supporting exempting pesticides from the CWA. Letter was send from several western governors including Dem governors from Oregon, Montana and Colorado.
a3. House Appropriations Bill for Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2012
Latest Title: Making appropriations for energy and water development and related agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2012, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep Frelinghuysen, Rodney P. [NJ-11] (introduced 6/24/2011) Cosponsors (None)
Latest Major Action: 7/15/2011 - passed the House, 219-196.
House Reports: 112-118.
This bill, introduced by Congressman Frelinguysen (R-NJ), from the Committee on Appropriations, includes a provision (rider) that would essentially STOP the recently released EPA and US Army Corps of Engineers Guidance on the Waters of the U.S. dead in its tracks. The language in the bill (page 14) states that:
"None of the funds made available by this Act or any other Act making appropriations for Energy and Water Development may be used by the Corps of Engineers to implement, administer, or enforce a change to the rule dated November 13, 1986, or guidance documents dated January 15, 2003 and December 2, 2008, pertaining to the definition of waters under the jurisdiction of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (33 U.S.C. 1251 et seq.)
The language in the bill would eliminate the administration's ability to finalize the new clean water guidance and undertake a public rulemaking, both of which are top Clean Water Network priorities. The language on page 14 would prohibit the Corps from changing regulations promulgated on November 13, 1986 - - regulations that codify a more expansive definition of "waters of the U.S." than those under consideration, and regulations that even industry stakeholders have testified in favor of changing. In addition, the rider is not binding for only FY 2012, but seemingly in perpetuity until repealed. The result is this Congress would tie the hands of both the Administration and future Congresses (unless additional action is taken).
On June 15th the House Appropriations Committee voted in favor of the FY 2012 Energy and Water Spending Bill, 26-20. This appropriations bill included the provision (Section 109) to prevent the Army Corps of Engineers from completing new guidance to help restore lost Clean Water Act protections. Rep. Moran of Virginia offered a compromise amendment that would have allowed the Agency to complete the guidance, but unfortunately the Moran amendment failed, 21 - 27. You can read the Committee press release here:
4. H.R. 2584, House Appropriations Bill for Interior-Environment for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2012
July 12, 2011 UPDATE: The House Appropriations Committee approved this bill 28-18 on Tuesday, July 12, 2011. You can read the Committe report here.
The full House is taking up this disastrous bill NOW-this week- July 25th.
Below is an abridged updated article from E & E on this major dirty water piece of legislation.
APPROPRIATIONS: Democrats to take aim at policy riders in Interior, EPA battle (07/25/2011)
Jean Chemnick, E&E reporter
To call the Interior and Environment spending bill the House will debate this week partisan would be an understatement.
The bill contains 38 policy riders that run the gambit from a one-year stay on new and proposed U.S. EPA rules for greenhouse gases and conventional pollutants to a moratorium on the Fish and Wildlife Service listing new species under the Endangered Species Act. Many of the provisions were included in the original Appropriations subcommittee draft, but others were added in committee almost exclusively by panel Republicans who say they are necessary to prevent EPA and Interior from doing irreparable harm to the economy.
More policy amendments are expected to be offered this week, with the House scheduled to take up the bill today.
Democrats on the panel and in the House say the measure is a massive overreach by appropriators who are using legislation intended to fund EPA and Interior in fiscal 2012 as a means of undermining landmark environmental laws.
Appropriations Committee ranking member Norm Dicks (D-Wash.) said Democrats this week will focus on highlighting how many environmental protections would be rolled back in the unlikely event that the bill becomes law.
"We want to get the message out there that this bill has to be changed," he said. "We hope that will inspire our friends over in the other body, the United States Senate, and the White House."
Senate Republicans have said they do not expect their chamber to pass a bill with as many policy provisions as have been proposed in the House, and the White House has threatened to veto the bill.
Dicks said Democrats will keep the bill on the floor for a long time, offering amendments to strip its riders.
"We're going to go amendment after amendment after amendment on this," he said. "Not a filibuster ... but they're going to hear a lot about a lot of issues."
"We're going to air these issues," agreed Interior and Environment Appropriations subpanel ranking member Jim Moran (D-Va.). "We're in no rush to resolve them."
Dicks said he hopes a few Democratic amendments will draw the necessary Republican support to pass, especially one to restore FWS authority to list endangered species and another that would drop the bill's stay on Bureau of Land Management plans to withdraw acreage around the Grand Canyon from future uranium mining. The rest would serve to drive home a message, he said.
"We're going to dissent," said Moran, who plans to offer amendments that would strip the bill's one-year stays on EPA regulation under the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, and on mountaintop mining rules and the Grand Canyon withdrawal, among others.
"I don't want it to be just a messaging bill," he said. "I'm an appropriator. I used to be an appropriations staff person. I believe that these are important bills. But this bill should never see the light of day."
Moran predicted that the bill may not have enough votes even to pass the House, adding that the entire House Democratic caucus is likely to vote against it and some Republicans might, too, because they either think its provisions go too far or they oppose any funding for EPA.
He predicted that Republican leaders would not allocate enough time for the bill in a week when the House must also vote to increase the limit on the national debt ahead of an Aug. 2 deadline.
The bill would fund Interior at $9.9 billion, $715 million less than current levels. EPA would receive $7.1 billion, about $1.5 billion below this year's levels and $1.8 billion less than the president requested for fiscal 2012.
Dicks said he was particularly disappointed in the bill's cuts for wildlife refuges, a comparatively small budget item he championed as chairman.
"This was a major retreat," he said. "Not only in funding, but all these restrictions -- all these limitations -- put in here and agreed to, is just unprecedented."
Dicks said Simpson was largely responsible, not only for including so many environmental riders in the underlying text, but for allowing Republican colleagues to add to those provisions by amendments in committee.
When he introduced his subcommittee draft earlier this month, Simpson said he had avoided including riders in the bill that dealt with issues the Natural Resources or Energy and Commerce committees had already addressed, such as new and upcoming Clean Air Act rules for air toxics and smog- and soot-forming emissions.
"Some things were just left out because the authorizing committees said that might screw up what we're trying to do in our committee," Simpson said at the time.
But Dicks and Moran note that Simpson raised no objection when other Republicans offered amendments dealing with those same rules in committee, which were added to the bill.
"Usually the subcommittee chairman will defend his bill against all the amendments, both from his side and from the Democratic side, unless it's something that everybody agrees is noncontroversial," said Dicks, adding that other subcommittee chairmen had done so this year. "This was very unusual," he said.
Simpson's office did not return calls to comment for this story.
Simpson has also demonstrated that he is able to use appropriations riders strategically.
An example is the Endangered Species Act rider, which would not permit FWS to increase the level of protection of a species in fiscal 2012.
Simpson said in his remarks at both the subcommittee and committee markup of the bill that he did not intend to undermine the wildlife protection law but that by restricting its application he hoped to force stakeholders -- especially environmentalists -- to push for a reauthorization of a bill that has not been revisited for decades. The status quo was not providing that incentive, he said.
"The authorization for the ESA expired 20 years ago and the assumption has been that the Appropriations Committee would continue to fund it year in and year out," he said at the start of the full committee markup.
"That's not how the process is supposed to work," he added.
David Conover, former Republican staff director at the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said Simpson was really faced with either continuing to fund a program whose authorization had expired or doing something to pressure authorizers to get their homework done.
"What makes sense about a system that just continues to fund programs with minimal oversight?" he asked.
"Mr. Simpson may be using a very blunt tool, given the species loss that we're experiencing ... but what is their better course?" Conover asked. "What's the appropriate role for appropriators? Are they supposed to be the only functioning unit of the Congress, or shouldn't authorizing committees actually do work?"
But Adam Kolton, who heads the Washington office of the National Wildlife Federation, said Simpson's rider provided little incentive for environmentalists to cooperate.
"That isn't usually the best invitation to negotiation," he said. "It's more like Pearl Harbor than it is an invitation to sit down at Reykjavik," referring to the summit that eventually led to a major nuclear disarmament treaty between the United States and Russia.
If Simpson intends to use his appropriations bill to force Congress to pass and the president to sign a bill reforming the ESA, Kolton said, it is a risky way of doing it, because Republicans will be on the record as having voted to scrap popularly supported protections for endangered species.
Background: On Thursday, July 7, 2011, a House appropriations subcommittee approved this spending measure to significantly slash Interior Department, Forest Service and EPA spending. The bill is $2.1 billion below current spending levels and almost $4 billion below what the administration requested in its FY 2012 budget. Specially, EPA would see a decrease of 18% and the Interior budget would decrease by 7%. The bill also passed with several dirty water riders that would:
* Block EPA from finalizing a Guidance document that clarifies what waters are protected under the Clean Water Act;
* Delay EPA from issuing new rules on stormwater discharges, stream buffers, thermal discharges;
* Prevent EPA from developing and proposing standards for the use of cooling water at power plants;
* Remove Clean Water Act safeguards to regulate pesticide discharges;
* Prevent Rules to Protect Steams & blocking EPA Oversight of Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining;
* Prevent the regulation of coal ash as a hazardous substance;
* Take away EPA's authority to make stormwater programs more effective; and
* Prevent the regulation of stormwater discharges from a host of silvicultural activities.
For more information on these dirty water riders, please read this summary put together by CWN member organization American Rivers.
Here is a list and description of all of the amendments that passed out of the committee.
To see how your Representative voted on these policy riders, click here.
5. House Appropriations Committee USDA Conservation Funding
The House Appropriations Committee has voted to make serious cuts to programs that pay farmers to protect wetlands and waterways. They voted to cut $171 million from the Conservation Stewardship Program and $350 million from the Environmental Quality Incentives Program. They also voted to reduce eligible acreage for sign up to the Wetlands Reserve Program and Grasslands Reserve Program.