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Dirty Water Bill

Earlier this month the U.S. House of Representatives voted in favour of HR 2018, largely along partisan lines, by a count of 239 to 184. The Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act of 2011, nicknamed the “dirty water bill” by many concerned environmental groups, rolls back many safeguards that were part of 1972’s Clean Water Act and threatens municipal water sources.

Filling glass of tap waterThe original Clean Water Act arose in response to inconsistent and ineffective state management of water resources. Clean Water Action, a non-profit dedicated to protection of the environment and community quality of life, noted that prior to the Clean Water Act of 1972, extreme pollution in lakes and rivers and uncertainty in the safety of drinking water were common. There is concern that passage of HR 2018 could herald a return to those dark times.

Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club, issued a lengthy statement condemning the bill, calling it an “unprecedented attack on clean water” and emphasizing the many detrimental effects of ratifying HR 2018.

Indeed, as it stands the bill undermines many longstanding safety precautions. It severely limits the power of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by preventing the EPA from vetoing projects that threaten waterways, fisheries or wildlife and removing. While this veto has rarely been used, it is an important roadblock against dangerous and destructive practices such as mountaintop removal mining. The bill would also prevent the EPA from setting and improving water quality standards without prior consent from the state.

Having passed through the House of Representatives, HR 2018 heads to the Senate next where it is not expected to go through. However, should it pass, the Obama administration has indicated its opposition and intent to veto the bill in its current form.

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