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By Lynn Thorp, National Program Director
Thanks to confusing Supreme Court decisions and actions by the last Administration, some water bodies are left without guaranteed Clean Water Act protection. Debate around closing these gaps in protection has always been colored by the influence of polluters’ interests and by the “legalese” nature of the problem.  But today’s hearing in the House Transportation and Infrastructure took this to a new level. 

Fiction: Rep. Gibbs (R-OH) asserted that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) acknowledge their proposed policy guidance to be an unprecedented expansion of Clean Water Act jurisdiction. This is simply not true.

Fact: The Administration’s policy “Guidance,” which is expected to be finalized soon, merely begins to close the protection gaps and provides clarity to permitters who labor under a confusing situation.

Reality: This important House Committee (the largest one, and quite powerful) passed a bill offered by Reps. Mica (R-FL) and Rahall (D-WV) [link to our letter] that will block EPA/ACE in moving forward to fix this water protection problem.  Several Minority members stood up for clean water. Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) introduced an amendment that would have limited the damage in terms of protecting drinking water - it failed.   This latest dirty water bill could go to the House floor to join the hundreds of anti-health and environmental protection bills and amendments that this body has passed in the last 17 months.  Meanwhile, a similar amendment has now been offered to the Farm Bill in the Senate.

This isn’t anything new. After all, the House in the 112th Congress has passed more than 200 anti-common sense, anti – environmental bills since January 2011.  All this committee hearing did was offer further proof that there are some members of Congress like Representatives Mica, Rahall, and Gibbs who prefer to put polluters not people first.  Other members, like Representatives Norton, Bishop, Napolitano, and Larsen are working to protect clean water. Enough with the dirty water bills, Congress.  Let’s admit that we ought to protect the streams, wetlands and other water that are vital parts of our nation’s water infrastructure and move on to other business.