House T&I Committee Undermines Clean Water Act

Date: 
Wed, 07/16/2014

July 16, 2014

Contact:

Steve Moyer, TU Vice President of Government Affairs (703) 284-9406

Tim Bristol, Director, TU Alaska Program (907) 321-3291

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

 

U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approves bills that undermine the Clean Water Act

Majority of committee members turn their backs on American sportsmen and women by approving bills that stop regulatory oversight in Bristol Bay and on our nation’s rivers

 

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee today approved three bills that undermine the Clean Water Act, while handing a gift to the destructive Pebble Mine proposal in Alaska and turning its back on American sportsmen and women, said Steve Moyer, Trout Unlimited’s vice president of government affairs.

“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, the Committee hammered the law with some of the most ill-conceived attacks in the history of the act,” Moyer said. The committee approved the following bills:

 H.R. 4854, the “Regulatory Certainty Act” would prohibit potential action by EPA to protect the commercial and sport fisheries of Bristol Bay, as well as the 14,000 jobs those fisheries provide. The bill also ignores local communities and local people, including Alaska natives who have asked to be saved from the impacts of the massive Pebble Mine proposal. The bill would render inoperable EPA’s 404c authority to stop hugely destructive activities, like the proposed open-pit mine that would be situated in the headwaters of the Bristol Bay drainage among some of the most productive salmon rivers in the world.

“Abandoned by its financiers, unable to produce a permit application after eight years of broken promises, and willing to sacrifice sport, commercial and native Alaskan fisheries of Bristol Bay, today the Pebble Limited Partnership finally found a friend: The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee,” said Tim Bristol, director of Trout Unlimited’s Alaska Program. “Alaskans are deeply distressed by today’s vote and will fight the legislation through every remaining step of the process.”

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. Legitimate concerns about the rule can and should be addressed during the rulemaking process, not through poorly conceived legislation, such as HR 5078. 

 H.R. 5077, the “Coal Jobs Protection Act of 2014” would 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. 

Today the majority of the committee seemed to forget that America’s 47 million anglers and hunters rely on clean water for access to quality days in the field spent hunting and fishing.  Destruction of headwater streams and wetlands threaten America’s hunting and fishing economy – which accounts for more than $200 billion in economic activity each year and 1.5 million jobs, supporting rural communities across the country.

Some members of the committee did not forget the purpose of the Clean Water Act, and distinguished themselves through leadership and speaking roles in defense of the nation’s waterways. TU would like to thank Reps. Bishop, Edwards, Napolitano, DeFazio, Holmes, Norton, Garamendi, Larsen, Nadler, Maloney, and all of those committee members who opposed the bad bills.

We urge the House to reject these bills and instead take a fresh look at what the Congress 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 when the Clean Water Act was signed into law by President Nixon.

Trout Unlimited is the nation’s oldest and largest coldwater fisheries conservation organization dedicated to conserving, protecting and restoring North America’s trout and salmon and their watersheds. Follow TU on Facebook and Twitter, and visit us online at tu.org.

 
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