Even as toxic algae outbreak plagues Florida's Caloosahatchee River, one of its representatives, John Mica (R-FL), sponsored a bill to limit the EPA's power to control water pollution.
Powered by polluter cash, the House of Representatives last week passed legislation designed to dismantle the Clean Water Act. Described as “an assault on Americans’ health, environment and economy
” by the Sierra Club, the Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act is currently awaiting a Senate vote after passing the U.S. House 239-184 on July 13 to much fanfare
from GOP lawmakers and corporate polluters. The president of the West Virginia Coal Association, Bill Raney, praised the bill’s passage
HR 2018 is a bipartisan bill that would rein in the Obama EPA and end the agency’s destructive abuse of authority and restore the balance needed to get America working again.
But the West Virginia Coal Association did much more than offer written support for the act; the organization is one of 44 such groups who donated a combined $28.9 million to House lawmakers in a push to secure the bill’s passing and thus limit the EPA’s role in the making, promulgation, and enforcement of clean-water regulations.
Lobbyist money played a pivotal part in what Earth Justice calls the fight of “clean water versus dirty water.” Interest groups working in support of the bill spent 23 times more money than did the opposition. In some instances, lawmakers received as much as $100,000 from lobbyists in support of the measure and not a cent from those opposed.
House Majority Whip Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) alone took in over $325,000, and Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) made close to $550,000.
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-FL), who sponsored the bill, received $102,000 from those in favor of his legislation. Mica characterized the act as a defense against the EPA’s bullying. “Everyone has called this a huge power grab by EPA and EPA has indeed created a regulatory nightmare that affects almost every state in the union,” Mica said.
But what specifically attracts water polluters and their money to this piece of legislation? It essentially takes the EPA’s long-held power to regulate water pollution and gives that authority back to individual states where corporate interests and ill-informed lawmakers can control the show. The EPA explains what the act proposes in its press release:
H.R. 2018 would roll back the key provisions of the Act that have been the underpinning of 40 years of progress in making the nation’s waters fishable and drinkable.
H.R. 2018 could limit efforts to safeguard communities by removing the federal government’s authority to take action when state water quality standards are not protective of public health. In addition, it would restrict EPA’s authority to take action when it finds that a state’s Act permit or permit program is inadequate and would shorten EPA’s review and collaboration with the Army Corps of Engineers on permits for dredged or fill material.
All of these changes could result in adverse impacts to human health, the economy and the environment through increased pollution and degradation of water bodies that serve as venues for recreation and tourism, and that provide drinking water sources and habitat for fish and wildlife.
H.R. 2018 would disrupt the carefully constructed complementary Act roles for EPA, the Army Corps and states in protecting water quality. It also could eliminate EPA’s ability to protect water quality and public health in downstream states and could increase the number of lawsuits challenging state permits.
Fortunately, the Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act must clear both a Democrat-controlled Senate and the threat of a presidential veto before it can become the law of the land. But what is clear from the July 13 vote is that House members are selling something that shouldn’t be sold for any price–our right to clean water.
Appalachian Voices is fighting the War on Water.