Clean Water Under Attack

Vigilance Alert

Legislation working its way through congress would severly impair the EPA's authority to impose restrictions on polluters nationwide. This legislation would give the states veto power on a number of water quality concerns that the Clean Water Act currently authorizes the EPA to make — essentially circumventing the EPA's ability to stop states from dismantling water quality requirements simply to lure polluters for economic reasons. These short-sighted gains can only result in severe longterm destruction of our country's natural resources.

Just last month the U.S. House of Representatives passed this devastating bill and it now sits in the U.S. Senate. Send a message to your U.S. Senator today and urge them to protect the Clean Water Act.

Even worse, North Carolina's state legislature recently enacted laws that limit state protections to the bare minimum federal requirements. Ironically, should this bill pass it would handcuff EPA's power to set these protections and leave control to the states. It's no accident that at the same time industry lobbyists in Raleigh have convinced state legislators to limit state rules to the bare federal minimum, industry lobbyists in D.C. are trying to make the federal standards optional for states.

H.R. 2018 is a blatant attempt to roll back the Clean Water Act. We need to stand up against these attacks and tell them we want to keep our rivers healthy and our waters clean.

Tell your U.S. Senator to protect our nation’s waterways by opposing this dirty water bill today.

Call to Action

The Federal Legislative Branch again demands our attention!  With the Dirty Water Bill (HR 2018) Congress has created another obstacle in an attempt to derail EPA’s ability to continue working towards cleaner waters and a pure environment.  For more on this Bill, please visit Thomas at: , and type in bill number “HR 2584.” See this New York Times article for a succinct explanation and/or keep reading here.

Coming in the form of HR 2584, the House Interior & Environment Appropriations Bill for 2012 is the mechanism for funding all of the work that EPA performs on a daily basis.  As a result, anything that is specifically exempt or defunded under this Bill cannot be performed by EPA. Certain House members know this, and they done everything they can introduce amendment after rider after revision in an attempt to bind EPA’s hands for any effective future efforts that it may want to take to, for example, stop mountaintop removal mining or truly regulate industrial animal feeding operations under any of the major federal environmental statutes.  Specifically, some of the sections, riders and amendments that have been introduced and that are currently being debated on the floor would:

  • prohibit the EPA from creating or implementing regulations that would require emissions permits be issued for various pollutants associated with livestock production. Section 428 (noxious livestock gasses)
  • keep the Office of Surface Mining within the Department of Interior from continuing work to revise regulations that today permit destructive and polluting practices associated with surface coal mining. Section 432 (stream buffer)
  • seek to shield mountaintop removal coal mining operations from EPA review by stopping EPA and the Corps of Engineers from continuing a process they put in place to scrutinize proposed mines.  It would even suspend the use of an internal EPA memo that explains to agency personnel how the scientific evidence of the harms associated with mountaintop removal projects should be taken into account as EPA reviews permits issued to mine operators by the Corps of Engineers and states. Section 433 (Enhanced Coordination Restrictions)
  • seek to end the public rulemaking process on toxic coal ash disposal standards. Section 434 (Coal Combustion Ash)
  • permanently prohibit EPA from changing its rules or policies to clarify what waters are protected by the Clean Water Act, endangering countless streams and wetlands.  EPA and the Corps recently took critical first steps to better protect important waters, so this rider seeks to kill this good government initiative. Section 435 (“waters of the U.S.”)
  • restrict EPA from working further on requirements that govern cooling water intake structures and thermal discharges from power plants. Section 436 (cooling water intake)
  • change the Clean Water Act to exempt stormwater discharges from a host of logging-related sources, including sediment-laden discharges, from the law’s industrial permitting program. Section 438 (industrial stormwater)
  • attempt to delay EPA’s work on the development of a proposed rule to reform the national regulations governing runoff pollution from urban and suburban sites and stormwater systems, a major source of water quality problems nationwide. Section 439 (Stormwater)   
  • restrict the EPA’s ability to regulate toxic air emissions from offshore drilling activities in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico as well as the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic Oceans. Section 443 (Air Emissions and offshore drilling)
  • keep EPA from implementing a program to clean up Florida waters. Section 452 (Florida)
  • prohibit any EPA funds from going to any Great Lakes state that has set stronger ballast water pollution standards (either tougher numeric standards or faster implementation requirements) than weaker international standards or potentially weaker federal standards being developed by the U.S. Coast Guard. Section 459(Great Lakes)
  • prevent the EPA from setting an ammonia standard under the Clean Air Act. Communities nearby factory farms and combined animal feeding operations (CAFO’s) are disproportionally at risk. Section 461 (Ammonia Regulation)
  • delay implementation of the EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics standard for power plants and Cross-State Air Pollution rule and requires unnecessary regulatory economic analysis of these rules and others (e.g. Boiler and Incinerator Maximum Achievable Control Technology, coal ash disposal, etc). Section 462 (Regulatory Economic Analysis)
  • Expected Amendment #1 from Representative Cole (R-OK) would prohibit funds from being used to implement a rule, regulation or executive order requiring political contribution disclosure.
  • And, finally, a crushing blow to a settlement that was negotiated with EPA in 2010 comes in the form of expected Amendment #16 by Representative Latham (R-IA) that would prohibit EPA from collecting water the pollution information from industrial livestock facilities that is necessary to refine its regulation of these operations and to ensure that these operations are complying with current effluent limitations and standards.

And, this is just a taste of what is going on with this Bill.  Don’t let the clinical word “appropriations” lull you away from the urgency of this issue!   We cannot let Congress do this!  This bill is at a critical phase, and we all need to call our representatives and let them know that you are aware of these nefarious tactics to defund and derail all of these important environmental efforts. Tell them they must not allow their fellow Representatives to exploit this Appropriations Bill to the detriment of EPA and our environmental.  The EPA must be fully and freely funded to perform the necessary tasks of the coming fiscal year! 
For more on this Bill, please visit Thomas at: , and type in bill number “HR 2584.”
Contact your representatives here.

"Buying" Legislation

If there's any question of politicians being cozy with the large oil, coal, and utility companies, donations made by these entities to certain legislators should put to rest those doubts. For an indepth review of the situation, see this article entitled Health for Sale: House EPA Bill Allows Pollution and Supporters Get Big Oil Donations by the Center for American Progress. Many other knowledgable people have opted in to the debate, such as Waterkeeper Alliance President Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., writing in the Huffington Post.

Steve Fleischli, Senior Attorney with the national Resources Defence Council, has also posted his thoughts.

Meanwhile, the coal industry is sending out "thank yous" to supporters who are pushing this legislation. Read how they're framing the subject here.

What can you do? First see if your legislator is receiving thank you notes from big polluters. Then review this chart to see how much in campaign funding is going to legislators who support coal, oil, and utility companies. Here's a chart showing which lawmakers have sponsored specific provisions that would affect air, land, and water in the U.S.

Contact your representatives and state your opinion.