House Votes to Strip EPA of Regulatory Powers In Water Pollution Cases

The US House of Representatives has voted to strip much of the EPA's regulatory powers over state water pollution cases. The bill, ironically dubbed the "Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act of 2011" passed the House on a largely party-line vote 239-184 and has virtually no chance of passing the Senate. That didn't, however, stop environmental and conservation groups from pointing out that the bill - which would essentially gut one of the most successful federal environmental laws ever passed - might not be such a good idea.

From this press release from Trout Unlimited:
_The U.S. House of Representatives voted yesterday to approve sweeping, harmful changes to the nation's 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 Agency's (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.
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_"..."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 country's 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 Act's engines of water quality improvement and wildlife habitat protection. H.R. 2018 would also limit the federal government's 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 state's weaker standards do not undermine progress in reducing pollution across the body of water.
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