Water Quality
December 13 2011

More Congressional attacks on clean water & the environment

by Mara Dias

For the last year, most appropriation bills and budget proposals coming out of the House of Representatives have included dangerous and misplaced riders aimed at reversing nearly 40 years worth of water and environmental protection.  These riders have read like a polluter's wish list and demonstrate the strong pressure that industry is exerting on Capitol Hill to deregulate our environmental protections and prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from doing its job to protect clean water, clean air, endangered species and habitats.

We've managed to skirt total disaster thus far by relying on the Senate to stand up to the House demands, but we can't continue to count on the Senate to stop this onslaught of dirty water riders and amendments.  Congress is in the midst of intense negotiations on the remaining FY 2012 appropriations bills.  These negotiations, which include key Members of the House, Senate and the Administration, should be coming to a conclusion anytime now.
The Surfrider Foundation has joined clean water groups across the country to fight to keep these terrible riders off the ultimate FY 2012 appropriations package.  Of particular concern to Surfrider is the Barrasso-Heller Ammendment that has been proposed to prevent the EPA from clarifying which waters receive protection under the Clean Water Act.  This amendment could potentially strip away CWA protection for one-fifth of the nation’s wetlands and as many as two million miles of small streams that lie at the top of our watersheds.  Other destructive riders that have been proposed would prevent EPA from developing and proposing standards for the use of cooling water at power plants, updating its stormwater discharge regulations or permits to manage runoff from post-construction sites and would create a loophole for pesticide applicators to spray toxic chemicals directly into our waterways.  Unfortunately this is only the short list.  The clean water community has been keeping a running tally on all the objectional riders here.

The final funding package for FY 2012 is still to be determined, but could likely include an "omnibus" bill that wraps up many funding measures, a series of  stop-gap continuing funding resolutions, or both, but we should know how it turns out before the holiday break.  These attacks on the environment have been made in the guise of growing our economy, but American people and American businesses need clean air and water.  Let's hope that enough of our representatives in DC get it.