Congressional bill might threaten nationwide water quality if passed, EPA says

MU journalism grad student’s Tim Wall’s article reblogged from Discovery News:

The Missouri River could be affected by pollutants in upriver states, if the Environmental Protection Agency is barred from upgrading water quality standards.

Go fishing. Go for a float trip. Drink a big glass of water.

Enjoy America’s water now, because a bi-partisan bill quickly making it’s way through congress will cut big holes in the safety net that protects our water, said the Environmental Protection Agency. But lawmakers said the reduction in restrictions fosters the growth of industry and increases states’ autonomy.

The Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act of 2011, H.R. 2018, was introduced in late May by John L. Mica (R-FL) with Nick J. Rahall (D-WV), Gibbs (R-OH) and Shelly Moore Capito (R-WV) as key legislators who co-sponsored the bill.

It recently passed the House [note: Blaine Luetkemeyer, who represents Missouri’s 9th Congressional District — including Columbia — voted among the “yeas”] and will be moving on to the Senate. The Act limits the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to enforce national water quality standards. The bill passed through mark-up by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Wednesday with only minor addendums.

According to the House of Representative’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s website:

H.R. 2018 provides common sense protections for states’ EPA-approved water quality standards and permitting authority under the CWA [Clean Water Act]. Without these protections, state regulation, as approved by EPA, can still be usurped by the agency at every turn, creating a climate for regulatory uncertainty and endless delays.

  • State Water Quality Standards: Restricts EPA’s ability to issue a revised or new water quality standard for a pollutant whenever a state has adopted – and EPA has already approved – a standard, unless the state concurs.
  • State Section 401 Water Quality Certification: Prohibits EPA from superseding a water quality certification (that a discharge will comply with applicable water quality requirements) granted by a state under CWA section 401.
  • Approval of State NPDES Permit Program Authority: Prohibits EPA from withdrawing approval of a state water quality permitting program under CWA section 402 (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, or NPDES), or from limiting federal financial assistance for the state program, on the basis that EPA disagrees with the state regarding a (i) water quality standard that a state has adopted and EPA has approved, or (ii) the implementation of any federal guidance that directs a re-interpretation of the state’s approved water quality standards.
  • EPA Veto Authority over State NPDES Permitting Decisions: Prohibits EPA from objecting to a state’s issuance of an NPDES permit on the basis of (i) EPA’s differing interpretation of an approved state water quality standard, or (ii) the implementation of any federal guidance that directs a re-interpretation of the state’s approved water quality standards.
Bloomberg reports supporters said limits on the EPA would give farmers, coal companies and other businesses that discharge pollutants into waterways greater certainty that standards won’t be changed.

The Natural Resources Defense Council summarized H.R. 2018 using different wording:

  • Limits EPA’s ability to effectively implement or make necessary improvements to state water quality standards to deal with modern pollution challenges.
  • Prevents EPA from improving numeric criteria for pollutants that have led to dead zones in the Chesapeake Bay and Gulf of Mexico.
  • Restricts EPA from upgrading standards for toxic pollutants where narrative standards only provide very limited protection (a common example being state standards that prohibit the “discharge of toxic pollutants in toxic amounts”).
  • Prevents EPA from vetoing state-issued Clean Water Act permits even if EPA concludes those permits are not protective of water quality.
  • Blocks EPA’s ability to withhold federal funding to states even if EPA determines the state’s implementation of water quality standards is not protective of water quality.

Read more on Discovery News…

And more from Bloomberg news.


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