Water Quality
July 27 2011

Congressional Attack on Clean Water and the Environment

by Mara Dias

SImilar to the budgetary process for 2011, where the House of Representatives passed a continuing resolution laden with riders aimed at preventing the EPA from doing its job, the current federal appropriations bill being considered by the House (HR 2584) would also reverse nearly 40 years of water and environmental protection.  Proponents of this appropriations bill say that we have to make hard decisions in order to balance the budget, but the truth is that this bill is an attempt to make bad anti-environmental policy, rather than take real steps towards reducing our debt.  Many of the environmental programs that are being severly cut are dwarfed in comparison to the tax breaks that the oil industry would continue to enjoy under this House proposal, and the riders bent on restricting the EPA's ability to enforce environmental laws have no place in an appropriations bill.

The House of Representatives also recently passed the Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act of 2011 (HR 2018) which ammends 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."  H.R. 2018 undermines the federal-state partnership envisioned by the Clean Water Act.  It limits federal oversight of state clean up plans, gives upstream states the power to weaken their pollution protections, and weakens the power of downstream states to protect their water supply, their communities, and their economy.  The bill does this by attacking two fundamental elements of the Clean Water Act: water quality standards and protection of waters from dredging and filling for large-scale mining, development, and water resource projects...

Fortunately the prospects for both of these bills are not good in the Senate, at least in their current form.  The White House has promised a veto if presented a federal budget for 2012 similar to the one now being considered by the House.  From a statement dated July 21, 2011,  "If the President is presented with a bill that undermines ongoing conservation, public health, and environmental protection efforts through funding limits or restrictions, his senior advisors would recommend he veto the bill."

Surfrider has joined over 200 clean water organizations in asking the Senate to reject both HR 2018 and the polluter-friendly riders attached to the House appropriations bill.  For more information, the Clean Water Network is maintaining an internet clearinghouse with information on many of the 'dirty water' bills coming out of DC right now.