Washington, DC - The House of Representatives today voted to turn back the clock 40 years on clean water protections, in one of the most sweeping attacks on clean, safe water in our nation’s history. American Rivers and our partners have led the charge against this bill, and in support of clean water protections for all Americans.
The “dirty water bill”, H.R. 2018 was introduced by Representative Mica (R-FL) and Representative Rahall (D-WV) and undermines critical Clean Water Act safeguards for public health, wildlife, and rivers.
“Clean water is an American value. We all expect and deserve clean water for drinking, clean rivers for fishing, clean lakes for boating, and clean beaches for swimming. Americans should be appalled by this attack on public health, recreation, and our many local economies that depend on clean water and healthy rivers,” said Katherine Baer, senior director of the clean water program at American Rivers.
The bill removes the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to ensure states effectively implement state water quality standards and improve them when those standards fail to protect clean water. Without this federal backstop, weak standards in one state may result in polluted waters downstream in other states regardless of whether those states have strong water quality standards or not. This bill would also prevent EPA from objecting to state-approved National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits that manage discharges of pollutants into our water.
This bill also removes EPA’s authority to veto dredge and fill permits issued by the Army Corps of Engineers when a proposed activity would discharge dredge or fill materials into our rivers, lakes, and streams. Activities like mountaintop removal mining, for instance, where the tops of mountains are blown off to expose coal seams and the surrounding valleys and streams are filled with discarded rubble, would no longer be subject to veto by the EPA. This veto authority is scarcely used – it has only been employed 13 times in 38 years. But when EPA does use this authority, it’s to stop projects that would cause overwhelming harm to people and clean water.
When Congress adopted the Clean Water Act in 1972, it was to prevent pollution and protect clean water – relying on a careful balance between state and federal responsibility and public participation. Before the Clean Water Act, there was not an effective federal safety net to prevent drinking water contamination -- and some rivers became so polluted that they actually caught on fire. Rivers, lakes, and streams aren’t bound by state borders and the Clean Water Act provides critical federal backstops that help to ensure minimum national levels of water quality, protecting all Americans.
“American Rivers will work to make sure this dirty water bill stops here, and does not pass the Senate. We need more protections for clean water and public health, not less,” said Baer.
American Rivers is the leading organization working to protect and restore the nation’s rivers and streams. Rivers connect us to each other, nature, and future generations. Since 1973, American Rivers has fought to preserve these connections, helping protect and restore more than 150,000 miles of rivers through advocacy efforts, on-the-ground projects, and the annual release of America’s Most Endangered Rivers®.
Headquartered in Washington, DC, American Rivers has offices across the country and more than 100,000 supporters, members, and volunteers nationwide. Visit www.americanrivers.org, www.facebook.com/americanrivers and www.twitter.com/americanrivers.