House Bill Would Restore Protection for America's Waterways

Reverses Bush Administration Rule on Solid Waste

Erin Allweiss, NRDC, 202-513-6254

WASHINGTON (March 5, 2009) -- A bill introduced yesterday would reverse a Bush administration regulation that re-classified a host of solid waste materials, including mining wastes, as “fill.” This authorized the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to permit those wastes to be dumped in waterways around the country. Joined by 114 members in the House of Representatives, Reps. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), David Reichert (R-Wash.), and John Yarmuth (D-KY) introduced the Clean Water Protection Act (H.R. 1310), a bill that would prevent the use of streams, lakes, and ponds as solid waste dumps. 
“This bill reverses the last administration’s harmful actions and will protect America’s bodies of waters from waste disposal,” said Jon Devine, a senior attorney in the Water Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “The Clean Water Protection Act says in plain terms that our water bodies are not industrial waste dumps. The bill will not only protect our rivers, streams and lakes, but it will protect the health of our citizens who rely on them. We are delighted to see such strong, bipartisan support for this important legislation.”
No one feels the effects of the waste rule more than the people of central Appalachia, where coal companies pollute and destroy small streams and vast areas using a practice called mountaintop removal.  Companies blow up whole mountaintops to expose thin seams of coal beneath, and then dump the waste that remains into adjacent valleys and streams.  Well over 1,000 miles of streams have been obliterated, or otherwise impacted, by this practice.
The waste rule also directly harms water bodies elsewhere.  The Supreme Court recently heard arguments in a case involving an Alaska lake, into which the Corps authorized a gold mine company to dump 1,440 tons of mine tailings a day into the lake, killing all the fish that live there. The Clean Water Protection Act would stop this kind of destructive disposal activity, and force companies instead to follow any discharge standards applicable to their industrial process.
“Representatives Pallone, Reichert, and Yarmuth deserve tremendous credit for their leadership in protecting our waterways, as do all of the members of Congress who are standing with them,” said Devine.  “We hope Congress will quickly pass this critical bill.”

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