Rough Rider Revisited: Who Flip-Flopped on Clean Water?

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On Tuesday, I wrote about a dirty water rider in the appropriations bill for energy and water development for fiscal year 2012.  In addition to being bad legislating – it co-opts the usual process of considering major policy changes and instead shoves the idea on to a spending bill – it’s bad, bad legislation.  It prohibits the Army Corps of Engineers from partnering with the Environmental Protection Agency to provide much-needed clarity about which small streams and wetlands are protected by the nation’s vanguard law governing water pollution: the Clean Water Act.

I am sorry to report that the rider survived yesterday’s consideration of the bill by the House Appropriations Committee.  In the process, the committee rejected an amendment by Representative James Moran (D-VA) to allow the Corps to proceed as long as it considered public input as part of its initiative (which it is doing already) and as long as it did not over-reach and try to apply the law to some currently unregulated activities (which it could not do, and which it had no intention of doing anyway).  In other words, the amendment sought to educate members that the Corps/EPA effort is both modest and transparent.  Unfortunately, Mr. Moran’s amendment was voted down on a party-line vote.

A couple observations on the vote:

Representative Moran (who coincidentally represents my family and me in Congress, as well as our local creek, Four Mile Run, pictured here) deserves kudos for trying to stop this assault.  Likewise, Representatives Norm Dicks (D-WA) and Peter Visclosky (D-IN), who spoke in support of the amendment, earned a clean water thumb’s-up yesterday, along with many other members of the committee who supported the amendment.

  • Three members of the committee – Representatives Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), Steven LaTourette (R-OH), and Frank Wolf (R-VA) – abandoned pro-clean water stances they’d taken in the past.  Representatives Frelinghuysen and LaTourette voted in 2006 to stop the Bush administration’s implementation of policy guidelines that had effectively denied Clean Water Act protection to a host of waters around the country, but voted yesterday to lock those same guidelines in place indefinitely.  Similarly, Representative Wolf previously co-sponsored legislation that would have clearly protected the kinds of water bodies that are most at risk because of the policy rider in yesterday’s bill.
  • The bill now proceeds to the House floor.  I also expect a similar fight in July on the same issue, as part of the spending bill that covers EPA.  We’ll keep you posted on developments and let you know how to make your voice heard.