With all the state's rights political rhetoric being thrown around in political campaigns and the calls for pushing back the reach of federal agency oversight, many agricultural organizations and their members are interested in new congressional legislation to limit enforcement of the Clean Water Act.
It appears to be a certainty that a bill sponsored by House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) and ranking member Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) will make it to the House floor for a vote this summer. The bill is H.R. 2018.
Stripped to a main basic, the bill would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from reversing/overruling state water quality limits, permitting authority, dredging and waterway activities and rulings related to wetlands.
New water nutrient content oversight in Florida by the EPA is what put Rep. Mica up front with this proposed legislation. Rep. Rahall’s concern appears to come from mining interests such as the EPA stopping mountaintop removal.
The EPA has gone on a publicity/education campaign to try and make legislators understand the ramifications of the proposed law. The EPA issued a report saying the measure “would overturn almost 40 years of federal legislation by preventing EPA from protecting public health and water quality.”
The main defense of federal EPA involvement is that water flows from one state to the next. The EPA contends its ability would be limited in keeping an upstream polluter, because of lax state control, having its polluted water go downstream into another state.
Of course, environmental groups oppose the legislation strongly.
The groups supporting the bill are diverse. Some opposing the EPA in the debate are state’s rights proponents who suggest the EPA is insulting the ability and quality of oversight that state agencies and governments provide. Others against the EPA position, such as agricultural groups, see the Clean Water Act being expanded into areas not intended when the legislation passed in 1972 and the EPA judging clean water and pollution beyond the normal scientific community definitions.
The bill’s sponsors are trying to “fast track” the legislation to a floor debate.