June 30, 2011

House trying to overturn Clean Water Act

EPA warned of the potential dire consequences of legislation being fast-tracked through the House that would give states final say on rules concerning water, wetlands and mountaintop-removal mining.

In a four-page legal analysis (pdf), EPA said the measure (H.R. 2018 (pdf)) sponsored by House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) and ranking member Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) "would overturn almost 40 years of federal legislation by preventing EPA from protecting public health and water quality."

EPA said the Mica-Rahall bill would "significantly undermine" the agency's role of overseeing states' establishment and enforcement of water pollution limits and permits. It said the measure would hinder EPA's ability to intervene on behalf of downstream states harmed by pollution coming from a state upstream. And it said the bill would prevent EPA from protecting local communities from ill-conceived mountaintop-removal and similar projects allowed to go forward under Army Corps of Engineers-issued permits.
"This 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 states," the analysis said.
Rahall and Mica have both bristled over EPA's recent actions affecting their home states, including the decision to subject mountaintop-removal mining applications to tougher review and to replace vague, state-established water pollution limits in Florida with tougher, numeric standards.
"This bill is a recipe for increased pollution, dirtier waters and more mountaintop removal mining," said Jon Devine, senior attorney in the water program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. "Its supporters seem intent on taking us back to the 'good old days' when rivers like the Cuyahoga caught fire and Lake Erie was declared dead."

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