By Sara Wyant
© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.
WASHINGTON, July 13 –By a 239-184 margin, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act, which would curtail the ability of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to revoke state-approved permits. Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica, R-FL, and Ranking Member Nick Rahall, D-WV, introduced HR 2018, which some describe as the “Rein in the EPA Act.”
The legislation is seen by many to be a response to EPA usurping Florida's water program and unilaterally establishing unachievable Numeric Nutrient Criteria (NNCs). The legislation would also address EPA's revocation of a state-approved permit for a mining operation in West Virginia.
“The Clean Water Act (CWA) created a partnership between states and the federal government to keep our waterways healthy,” said Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Fla., in the weekly House Ag Committee Minute. “However, the EPA has repeatedly tried to impose federal standards on individual states. In Florida, the EPA imposed an unachievable, ‘one-size-fits-all,’ standard for water nutrients that ignores the economic concerns of our small businesses, family farmers, and local government.
"This could cost Florida alone more than 14,000 jobs and threaten agriculture production. While the EPA has only targeted Florida with these job-killing regulations, it‟s apparent that the current administration wants to take this policy nationwide,” Southerland explained.
Critics of the bill say that a strong federal role is necessary because water pollution and the activities of the nation‟s worst polluters are rarely confined within political boundaries – such as individual state borders. In a formal statement from the White House, the Obama Administration said it “strongly opposes H.R 2018 because it would significantly undermine the Clean Water Act and could adversely affect public health, the economy, and the environment.
The Democratically-controlled Senate seems unlikely to move comparable legislation.
The House adopted two amendments to the bill including a requirement that EPA submit a report to Congress on any increase in waterborne pathogenic microorganisms including toxic chemicals or metals in waters regulated by the agency, within a year of when the bill passes. Anoterh amendment that would not limit the EPA's authority to regulate pipelines that cross stream beds.
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