by Lynn Thorp
When I first read the Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act I almost laughed. It reads like a temper tantrum in writing whose authors just want to get back at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for trying to do its job protecting our water.
I didn’t laugh too long, though, because House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) has promised a vote on what’s being called “The Rein in EPA” Act. Rep. Cantor says he has made it one of his party’s summer priorities.
Don’t let the title fool you. There’s nothing “cooperative” about this piece of legislation.
This bill is a blatant and parochial attack on the federal government’s fundamental role in protecting our water and our health.
Some members of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, the panel that oversees EPA implementation of the Clean Water Act, are not pleased about Agency decisions affecting big polluters in their states – specifically decisions on mountaintop removal coal mining and nutrient pollution standards. Their bill would forbid EPA from overruling states in such cases and would amend the Clean Water Act, severely limiting the Agency’s authority and ability to enforce the law.
Since water pollution and the activities of the nation’s worst polluters are rarely confined within political boundaries – such as individual state borders – a strong federal role is essential if we’re at all serious about wanting to protect our water.
This bill is dangerous, but the ideas behind it are not new. Ever since the Clean Water Act passed in 1972, polluters have pushed to weaken its programs and to question the federal role in protecting water. They’ve even managed to create a whirl of bureaucratic confusion over which waters Congress meant to protect in the first place.
[Learn more about this problem, the Administration’s efforts to fix the Clean Water Act, and how you can add your voice to the formal record supporting water and health protections – before the upcoming July 1 deadline for public comments.]
Should we expect our elected representatives to be indulging in mostly-partisan temper tantrums at the expense of clean drinking water and people’s health? This outrageous misbehavior is disappointing and unacceptable.
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will take up the Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act of 2012 (HR 2018) on Wednesday, June 22. Let’s hope cooler heads prevail and this bill ends up going nowhere.
Lynn Thorp is National Campaigns Coordinator for Clean Water Action & Clean Water Fund.