Thursday, July 14, 2011

House Passes Controversial "Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act"

Late last evening (July 13) the full House handily passed a controversial "Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act" (H.R. 2018) that would significantly restrict EPA's ability to issue revised or new water quality standards without a state's permission (see prior story on the bill here).  The bill passed on a 239-184 roll call vote, gaining the support of all but 13 Republicans as well as Democrats from Appalachia, where the coal industry had been lobbying consistently to shift more of EPA's regulatory power to the states.

There is little chance of the bill becoming law, however.  No similar measure has been introduced in the Senate.  And on July 12, the White House Office of Management and Budget released a  veto threat within a strongly-worded statement noting the Obama Administration "strongly opposes" the measure "because it would significantly undermine the Clean Water Act (CWA) and could adversely affect public health, the economy, and the environment."   Republicans countered that the bill would restore the "intended state-federal balance" in the enforcement of Clean Water Act regulations, arguing that EPA regulatory over-reach is costing the nation jobs and hindering its economic recovery.

An amendment offered by House Democrat Gerald Connolly (VA-11) that sought to exempt various  watersheds and estuarine regions that receive federal restoration funding from the provisions of H.R. 2018 was voted down.  The amendment would have allowed "critical efforts such as restoration to continue in acknowledgement of the undeniable fact that water does not stop when it reaches a state line," according to a dear colleague letter circulated by Connolly earlier in the week.  The list of "great waters" covered under the amendment included the entire Mississippi River Basin, as well as the Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay, Long Island Sound, South Florida/ Everglades, San Francisco Bay, Gulf of Mexico, Lake Champlain, Puget Sound, Casco Bay (ME), New Hampshire Estuaries, Massachusetts Bays, Buzzards Bay, Narragansett Bay, Peconic Estuary, New York/NJ Harbor, Bernegat Bay, Delaware Inland Bays, Maryland Coastal Bays, Southeast Coast, Albermarle-Pamlico Sound, Indian River Lagoon, Gulf Coast, Charlotte Harbor, Sarasota Bay, Tampa Bay, Mobile Bay, Bataraia-Terrebonne Estuary, Galveston Bay, Coastal Ben, West Coast, Lower Columbia River, Tillamook Bay and Morro Bay.

In a June 21 US EPA four-page legal analysis (PDF file) of the bill, EPA cautioned that the bill would “overturn” clean water law.

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