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U.S. House Committee Passes Bill to Divest EPA of Water Program Oversight

A measure that would gut the nation’s Clean Water Act cleared a House committee this morning.House Resolution 2018 would basically allow states to set their water quality standards on their own. Right now, the federal Environmental Protection Agency administers the Clean Water Act. States can adopt stricter requirements, but the EPA sets the minimum bar.The resolution gives states veto authority of EPA enforcement, and allows states to decide for themselves whether they’re in compliance with the Clean Water Act.David Beckman is the director of the National Resources Defense Council’s water program. He says history has already shown HR 2018 is a bad idea.“We tried it before in this country with states leading the charge and the results were not satisfactory,” he said. “We had rivers on fire.”Beckman says nationwide EPA enforcement is needed to protect water quality, or else economic factors might get in the way of environmental protection.“The ability of EPA to kind of set that bar, to be the neutral player, to insure that no state has an advantage or disadvantage by keeping standards low, potentially to attract investment or otherwise, this is part of what has made the Clean Water Act so successful,” Beckman said.The bill has 33 co-sponsors, including Kentucky Congressman Hal Rogers (KY-05). In a written statement, Rogers said:“For months, the EPA has overstepped its boundaries, taking dead aim at coal and rural communities. Studies confirm, the EPA’s widespread regulations will cost us billions of dollars and millions of jobs, a pain already stinging the Kentucky coalfields. This bill (H.R. 2018) will rein in the EPA’s overreaching regulations and uphold the original intent of the Clean Water Act, restoring the rights of states to administer and oversee state-led clean water programs.”The resolution isn’t referred to any committees besides the House Transportation Committee, which passed it out. If there’s interest, it could next go to the floor for a vote.

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