Front Porch Blog

America Says: Keep Your Dirty Hands Off My Clean Water Act!

Senator Manchin, Reps. McKinley and Young: Taking the Clean out of the Clean Water Act

Some members of Congress have started a war on the Clean Water Act by attempting to revoke a vital resource that allows the EPA do its job to better protect our nation’s waterways.

Congressman McKinley (R-WV01) recently introduced legislation (HR 457) for consideration United States House of Representatives that would remove EPA’s ability to veto Clean Water Act permits under Section 404(c) if the permit has already been approved by the Army Corps of Engineers. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) has promised to introduced similar legislation in the US Senate. These bills might have the unintended affect of encouraging the Army Corps to approve permits quickly. Congressman Don Young (R-AK)‘s bill, H.R. 517 cuts even deeper by entirely removing EPA’s veto authority.

In the entire existence of the Clean Water Act (1972), the EPA has only exercised this prerogative 13 times.

The EPA recently used this long-standing though seldom-used tool to veto the Spruce Mine No. 1 permit, which would have been the largest single permitted mine in West Virginia history, because of the massive negative impacts to water quality. Mountaintop removal mines have already buried over 2000 miles of Appalachian headwater streams in a witch’s brew of heavy metals and chemicals such as arsenic, lead, chromium, mercury, and selenium.

The coal industry is attempting to nationalize this recent veto, claiming the EPA’s recent decision creates regulatory uncertainty across all industries. The truth is that Arch Coal, the company who had applied for the permit, refused to work with the EPA on modifications that would have made the mine more than likely immune to a veto.

Furthemore, Big Coal doesn’t seem to be too concerned about “regulatory certainty” when it comes to industries that depend on a strong Clean Water Act, like fisheries, outdoor recreation and tourism. Studies have shown that the annual financial benefits of the 1972 Clean Water Act are somewhere in the realm of $11 billion.

However HR 457 and 517, however, truly do have national implications for communities’ basic right to clean water. The EPA would lose their ability to intervene in projects that would have serious impacts to water quality, environmental and human health across the entire nation.

Appalachian Voices stands with national, regional, community, human health organizations and fisherman prepared to fight this perilous political theatre from Representatives McKinley, Young and Senator Manchin.

The Clean Water Act was put into place in the 70s, at a time when corporate pollution was virtually unregulated and a national consciousness grew that without clean water, our nation could not prosper and grow. Attempts at weakening the Clean Water should be taken seriously, because there are parts of American history that do not bear repeating.

Our children don’t need to find themselves back to a time where major rivers catch on fire. Remember the Cuyahoga!





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  1. LdeG on February 2, 2011 at 8:08 am

    “These bills might have the unintended affect of encouraging the Army Corps to approve permits quickly.”

    Is this really an “unintended effect”?

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