Dirty Water Amendment to a House Spending Bill Guts the Clean Water Rule

Water is life

Water is a basic human necessity. We need it to live. But some folks in Washington want to weaken environmental protections for that necessity.

The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed the Fiscal Year 2019 Interior-Environment Appropriations bill. It is a spending bill that would reduce funding for the Environmental Protection Agency. The bill also includes what is termed the “Dirty Water Rider” which would cut out Clean Water Rule protections for streams, wetlands, and drinking water sources.

A letter from a coalition of environmental and conservation groups urges Congress “to reject all policy riders attacking safeguards for the streams, wetlands, lakes, rivers, and other waters that our families, communities, and economy depend on, as well as broader attacks on our environment and public health.”

The Clean Water Rule, issued in 2015, brings clarity to the capacity of the Clean Water Act. Last summer, over 550,000 people, out of 660,000, left comments opposing the proposed repeal of the Clean Water Rule. The Dirty Water Rider “would let the Agencies ignore those comments,” according to Protect Clean Water.

GOP seeks to gut clean water rule

Dirty water, no debate

The National Resources Defense Council characterizes the Dirty Water Rider as something that “legislatively repeals the landmark Clean Water Rule without legislative hearings, deliberation, and debate, and without regard to the broad public support for clear and effective clean water safeguards for the nation’s streams and wetlands.”

Andrew Grinberg, Clean Water Action Special Projects Manager, notes that the spending bill “will never pass the Senate.” But he adds that the “dirty water caucus in the House insisted on taking another vote to prove their allegiance to the special interests who cut their campaign checks.”

Opponents have been gunning for the Clean Water Rule from the beginning. Over 100 parties filed lawsuits to stop the implementation of the rule after it was issued. The Sixth Circuit halted the implementation of the Rule, but the Supreme Court ruled in January 2018 that the Sixth Circuit did not have jurisdiction over the case, and in February 2018 the Sixth Circuit dismissed it, which dissolved the stay.

Some Republican House members have made it clear they want the Clean Water Rule repealed. Rep. Dan Newhouse (WA) said it needs to be repealed “once and for all” back in March. His colleague, Rep. Andy Biggs said, “The Clean Water Rule is one of the most intrusive and expansive regulations to come out of President Obama’s politicized EPA.” And Rep. Rob Bishop said, “We will pursue every avenue necessary to dispose of this harmful and abusive regulation.”

What you can do to protect clean water

There is something that concerned citizens can do. They can vote for candidates in November who support the protections in place for our water. As Grinberg said:

“The 217 Representatives who voted for this bill have made it very clear for voters in November: they will put the profits and concerns of corporate polluters first, no matter the cost to our water, health, and environment.”

Image credits: Cheri Chow, courtesy Flickr; Aaron Burden on Unsplash

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