In a 239 to 184 vote, the U.S. House of Representatives voted today to roll back key provisions of the federal Clean Water Act by passing H.R. 2018, formally known as the “Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act of 2011.” We call it the “Dirty Water Act.”
As my colleagues and I have pointed out (here, here and here), this bill creates disastrous consequences for water quality across the country. “Shortsighted” and “reckless” are words that immediately come to mind. As EPA has warned, H.R. 2018 “overturn[s] almost 40 years of federal legislation by preventing EPA from protecting public health and water quality.”
The bill stems from its sponsors’ distaste for EPA's recent important efforts to protect water quality in West Virginia and Florida.
In essence, the bill takes the “federal” out of the federal Clean Water Act by allowing states to veto EPA water quality decisions even when a waterway is severely polluted. The bill also limits EPA’s ability to effectively make improvements to state water quality standards to deal with modern pollution challenges (like toxic pollutants). By hamstringing EPA, H.R. 2018 removes a national safety net that guarantees everyone in this country a minimum level of water quality protection no matter where you live.
Equally as disturbing as the substance of the bill is the fact that H.R. 2018 raced through the House without a single public hearing on the bill -- a bill supposedly about "transparency."
The House has unleashed the single worst assault on clean water protections in a generation—part of a broader, ill-conceived attack on our air, lands, water and wildlife. No wonder the White House said President Obama would veto this travesty of a bill. Similar bills deserve the same fate.