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EPA Tells It Like It Is on HR 2018--the Dirty Water Bill

David Beckman

Posted June 23, 2011

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A number of my NRDC Water Program colleagues are blogging on HR 2018, reflecting its status as one of the worst dirty water bills any of us have seen.  NRDC’s Founding Director John Adams has now weighed in with a beautiful piece that underscores how nonsensical and destructive 2018 would be if passed. 

The bill blasted out of the House Transportation & Infrastructure committee in record time yesterday, with no hearing. Even if you support repealing foundational elements of our nation’s clean water law, doing so without airing the issues is an indefensible process.  But trying to speed the bill along while folks are on summer vacation (many enjoying waters protected by the very Clean Water Act provisions the bill would gut) is, of course, the plan. 

Now, the US EPA, in response to a request from Representative Tim Bishop of New York, has confirmed the analysis of many environmental advocates and others about the bill.  EPA, like many government agencies, doesn’t always use the most direct language in letters to members of Congress. But this is a destructive enough bill that EPA has quickly and commendably found a strong voice.  EPA’s words speak for themselves:

The first line of EPA’s “Technical Assessment H.R. 2018” gets right to the point:  “The bill would overturn almost 40 years of federal legislation by preventing EPA from protecting public health and water quality.”  

 EPA here is not overstating.  HR 2018, as EPA’s analysis notes, prevents EPA from assuring that upstream states don’t lower standards in a way that passes pollution to their downstream neighbors—a classic problem the Clean Water Act was designed in part to address.  And it prevents EPA from responding to the best science to improve water quality standards as we learn more about the impacts of pollution.  

This is like preventing your doctor from updating a course of treatment based on new medical discoveries. It makes no sense.

But the perniciousness of 2018 means that even this isn’t the full story.  EPA then lists its other impacts, and you quickly get the sense that this bill is irredeemable: 

  • “The bill would prevent EPA from providing its views on whether a proposed project that pollutes or even destroys lakes, streams, or wetlands would violate CWA standards.”
  • “The bill would remove EPA’s existing state coordination role and eliminate the careful Federal/State balance established in the current CWA.”
  • “The bill would prevent EPA from protecting communities from unacceptable adverse impacts to their water supplies and the environment caused by Federal permits.”
  • “The bill would substantively eliminate the opportunity for EPA, the federal government’s expert on water quality, to comment on Federal permits impacting water quality and public health.

HR 2018 is, at least in part, a direct reaction to positive actions the administration has taken to protect water quality—vetoing a particularly destructive mountain-top mining proposal; upgrading water quality standards in Florida; and proposing stronger action to clean up the Chesapeake Bay, to name three.  

It is intended, at minimum, as a message:  EPA, watch out, if you use your authority, we will take it away.  Now that HR 2018 has been turned loose in Congress, we all need to send an equally clear message that we won’t stand for these sort of attacks on the nation’s bedrock water quality statute.  

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Skip RagsdaleJun 24 2011 02:56 PM

Advancing the progress of protecting our environment has always been controversial. Many of those who develop shopping centers, restaurants, home sites, etc. think it a waste of money to stop contaminates from entering the “Waters of the State”. They can’t stop EPA enforcement of the Clean Water Act so they want to control enforcement by taking away the U.S. EPA enforcement authority. The EPA’s “Technical Assessment of H.R. 2018” is correct: “The bill would overturn almost 40 years of federal legislation by preventing EPA from protecting public health and water quality.” Not all States (mine- Alabama) have enforcement authorities that care about the health of the people. Due to opponents of the C.W.A. lack of control over the EPA and their ability to contribute to the campaigns of politicians, they are now asking the bought and paid for politicians to repay them by turning the EPA enforcement authority to State environmental management agencies. This movement MUST BE STOPED!!!!!!!! What will it take before the citizens stand up and take back the country from politicians. Will it be when children are again dying from ground and water contamination? That was the way in our past. I don't want my grandchildren knowing this pain. Don't allow our environment to become like a Third World Countries.

Jamie V.Jun 27 2011 09:27 AM

So basically this bill aims to take away all authority the EPA currently has? I have no idea how people can be so close-minded and selfish when it comes to the environment. If it's not in their backyard who cares? Even if it is, they usually don't care if interferes with there ability to make a profit. It's a sad situation and people need to wake up.

David BeckmanJun 27 2011 07:00 PM

Thanks for your comments. Concerned members of the public can check out this website to see if their Representative is part of the committee that approved 2018 and, if so, how they voted. If he or she is on committee, you can express your views by calling the relevant Congressional office. Whether or not your Representative is on the committee, you can call him or her and indicate you hope they dont support legislation like this that undermines our nation's commitment to clean water.

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