Press Release | July 13, 2011

U.S. House Tosses 40 Years of Clean Water Protections

The House of Representatives passed a bill today that would gut long-standing protections under the 40-year Clean Water Act that keep America’s drinking water, rivers, lakes, wetlands and coasts clean and healthy.

Passed by a vote of 239-184, the Clean Water Federal Cooperative Federalism Act of 2011 (HR 2018) would rewrite the Clean Water Act to undercut the critical federal “backstop” for clean water protections. The legislation would strip the Environmental Protection Agency of its authority to hold polluters accountable, and prevents EPA from requiring that states protect downstream people, businesses and states.

For example, in Alabama, the EPA has recently weighed in on a proposal to dredge a segment of the Tombigbee River, which has serious water quality implications if contaminants from two nearby Superfund sites have migrated into the section of the river slated for dredging. EPA is recommending that the river sediments be tested for harmful pollutants so that, if it is approved, the dredging project would be designed and conducted to protect citizens and the environment. This is the type of common-sense input EPA can provide states to ensure the protection of human health and the nation’s waters.

Similar legislation has not been introduced in the Senate.

Following is a statement from SELC:

“This legislation would throw 40 years of water protections out the window, and leaves one of America’s most valuable resources vulnerable to great harm,” said Nat Mund, legislative director of the Southern Environmental Law Center. “It puts public health on the back burner in favor of giving polluters more leeway. We need a federal safety net to ensure that polluters everywhere are held to strong standards, and prevent a race to the bottom. It also makes sense from a business perspective to level the playing field.”

“EPA plays a vital role in keeping waterways clean in states that may lack the resources or political will to get the job done.  This bill disturbs the sensible balance crafted by Congress, which has worked well for the past 40 years,” said Gil Rogers, head of SELC’s Clean Water Program.

Press Contacts

Gil Rogers

Director, Georgia Office

Phone: 404-521-9900

Nat Mund

Director, Washington D.C. Office and Federal Affairs

Phone: 202-828-8382