The Clean Water Act, and the EPA’s ability to enforce it, is under attack once again. Last week, in a 239-184 vote, the U.S. House passed HR 2018: The Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act that severely limits the federal government’s ability to oversee state compliance with the Clean Water Act.
If passed by the Senate, two fundamental elements of the Clean Water Act will be undermined: the ability for EPA to set minimal Water Quality Standards and their ability to protect streams from the ravages of mining. EPA’s ability to revise an existing water quality standard or create a new one will hinge upon approval by individual states. EPA’s ability to protect water quality will be further hampered by a provision that prevents them from enforcing existing standards on any discharger that has received a permit from a state. Together these provisions will create a hodgepodge of regulation that will allow polluters to shop around for states with weaker standards, and result in dirtier water.
The EPA needs to be able to update our water quality standards based on the best science available to adequately protect our lakes and streams. Without the ability to amend water quality standards our lakes and streams can be subject to problems like algae blooms from improperly treated waste water or fertilizer runoff, which deplete oxygen levels in the water killing fish and other aquatic life.
Corporate polluters can already easily control a state’s political landscape but without proper federal oversight from the EPA they will have free rein to pollute our waters. The Clean Water Act was created nearly 40 years ago to ensure that our waters remain safe to drink, fish and swim in. This bill not only jeopardizes the safety of our waters, but puts the health of thousands of Americans at risk.
Unfortunately, more than half of Illinois’ representatives voted to get rid of clean water protections (See how your representative voted). Congress is currently in recess so now is the time to urge senators Durbin and Kirk to protect our nation’s water and vote NO on the Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act.