Dear Members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee:
Forty years ago the House Transportation and Infrastructure committee played a leadership role in enacting one of the nation’s most vital natural resource conservation laws, the Clean Water Act. Today, that same committee plans to slash this law with some of the most ill-conceived attacks in the history of the Act. On behalf of TU’s 153,000 members and sportsmen and women across the nation, I urge to reject the terrible trifecta of bad bills.
H.R. 4854, the “Regulatory Certainty Act” would foreclose potential action by EPA to protect the commercial and sport fisheries, 14,000 jobs, communities and people, including Alaska natives, of Bristol Bay from the impacts of the massive Pebble Mine proposal. The bill would render inoperable EPA’s 404c authority to stop hugely destructive activities.
Proponents of this bill seem to want to forget its laser-focused, critically valuable, history. Sportsmen and women won’t forget it: EPA has used its 404(c) veto authority only 13 times in the 42-year history of the Act, with 11 of these vetoes issued under Republican Administrations. This authority is a critical safeguard against projects that would have an “unacceptable adverse effect on municipal water supplies, shellfish beds and fishery areas (including spawning and breeding areas), wildlife or recreational areas.” A 404c veto issued by EPA under the George W. Bush Administration protected the South Platte River’s Cheesman Canyon gold medal fishery in Colorado.
H.R. 5078, the “Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act of 2014” would derail the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers’ proposed “Waters of the U.S.” rule that will protect headwater streams and wetlands. This critical rule clarifies the scope of the Clean Water Act by clearly defining which waterways are covered by the Act. This rule reduces confusion about which waters are protected under the Clean Water Act and narrows the historic scope of protected waters while providing key protections for downstream water quality, drinking water sources, flood protection, healthy fisheries and wildlife habitat. Legitimate concerns about the rule can and should be addressed during the rulemaking process, not through legislative attacks on the rule such as HR 5078.
H.R. 5077, the “Coal Jobs Protection Act of 2014” seeks to weaken the Clean Water Act to make it easier to pollute and fill waterways. Among other things, this bill imposes rigid deadlines for decisions on dredge and fill permits tied to the submission of the application and NOT to completion of a meaningful review of the project’s impacts, and automatically approves projects where those deadlines are not met. This undermines the ability to conduct effective reviews and creates an incentive for the Corps to delay reviews so they can deem permits to be approved without appropriate reviews. Additionally, the bill undermines EPA's longstanding authority to disapprove state lists of waters not meeting pollution standards and cleanup plans for polluted waters by allowing states to "disregard the Administrator's recommendation" for listed waters and cleanup plans.
Please do not turn your backs on the interests of sportsmen and women. America’s 47 million sportsmen rely on clean water for access to quality days in the field hunting and fishing. Destruction of headwater streams and wetlands threaten America’s hunting and fishing economy – which accounts for over $200 billion in economic activity each year and 1.5 million jobs, supporting rural communities across the nation. We urge you to reject these bill and instead take a fresh look at what the committee needs to do to help the nation achieve the splendid goal—“restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation's waters”-that it established 42 years ago.
Vice President, Government Affairs