Front Porch Blog

House, Once Again, Passes Attack on Water, Science, Humans

Rahall Legislates that Water Stop at State Lines. Seriously.

Yesterday evening the House of Representatives passed The Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act (HR 2018), a bill that turns back the clock forty years on the environmental and public health protections in the Clean Water Act. This brazen attack on public protections is the closest big industrial polluters have ever come to completely gutting laws that protect Americans’ ability to access clean water.

Colorado Democratic Representative Jared Polis perhaps said it best:

“Let’s not fool ourselves, the bill before us today isn’t just about the role of federal government, the bill isn’t just a push for state sovereignty; rather, this bill would satisfy two very niche special interests at the cost of the American public. This bill is designed to benefit mountaintop coal mining companies and large factory farms.”

Polis is, of course, absolutely right. Meanwhile, cowards like Nick Rahall keep up this charade that this is somehow about “protecting Appalachian jobs.” Inconveniently for them, there are facts. The FACTS ARE: Mining jobs in Central Appalachia have increased since the MOU because companies are doing less mountaintop removal and relying more on underground mining. Underground mining employs more people.

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: There IS an attack on mining jobs in Central Appalachia, and its called mountaintop removal.

The Votes
There were several recorded votes. One for the final bill, once on the motion to recommit, and then 6 amendments related to protecting clean water. I’ve excluded the Capito amendment, because the politics around that will be substantially different. Most Democrats voted FOR these pro-water amendments, and most Republicans voted AGAINST these pro-water amendments. We’ll note the variation below.

Lets look at the vote on final passage first.
(HR 2018 Mica-Rahall: Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act”)

HR 2018 Ayes Nays Not Voting
Republicans 223 13 3
Democrats 16 171 5
Total 239 184 8

Ds voting Aye: Altmire, Baca, Barrow, Boren, Boswell, Cardoza, Costa, Costello, Critz, Cuellar, Holden Matheson, McIntyre, Rahall, Ross, Peterson
Rs voting Nay: Dold, Fitzpatrick, Flake, Hayworth (NY), Johnson (IL), Lance, LoBiondo, Reichert, Riggell, Smith (NJ), Wittman, Wolf, Young (FL)

For brevity’s sake (and because HTML tables take forever to make) The other amendments were Jackson-Lee (12), Carnahan, Blumenauer, Connolly, and Polis.

So, between all of these votes and the amendment votes on HR 1 earlier this year, a clearer picture is beginning to emerge of where politicians stand on protecting water quality in this country. Generally, most Democrats have voted for what we would call environmental protection. There have been 11 votes when a meaningful number of them have bucked their party and voted against protecting clean water. These are listed below. Generally, most Republicans have opposed what we would call environmental protection. There have been 8 votes when a meaningful number of them have bucked their party and voted to protect clean water. These are listed below.

*please click to “embiggen” table

So, for instance, Republicans Chris Smith, Tim Johnson, and Mike Fitzpatrick have cast 8 of 8 “good” votes in favor of protecting clean water. Democrats Boren, Critz, Holden, Matheson, Rahall, and Ross have cast 11 of 11 “bad” votes in favor of eliminating protections for clean water.

Raised on the banks of the Tennessee River, JW's work to create progress in his home state and throughout Appalachia has been featured on the Rachel Maddow Show, The Daily Kos and Grist. He served first as Appalachian Voices’ Legislative Associate and then Tennessee director until leaving to pursue a career in medicine in 2012.

  1. Mike McCoy says:

    JW, what do you think the chances are that this bill will pass the senate? And do we have a timeline for when it would find its way to the floor of the senate for a vote?

  2. jw says:

    Great question Mike.

    There is no timeline yet. Since Democrats control the Senate, they’re not likley to push this (mostly) right-wing legislation. In addition, the President has already threatened a veto should the bill reach his desk.

    In the Senate the bill would go to the Environment and Public Works Committee (chaired by strong environmentalist Barbara Boxer), and the Subcommittee on Water Resources and the Environment (chaired by strong environmentalist Ben Cardin). Both of them are very unlikely to call it up for a vote at all. That said, the coal lobby has some strong allies in the Senate who will likely try and force a straight floor vote on the bill.

    I’d be very curious as to where Webb and Warner stand on this bill. As usual, they’ll be key votes.

  3. Enviro says:

    USEPA has earned this legislation if we are honest about it. Negotiations with state regulatory agencies has yielded significant progress, but USEPA has continued to object to permits despite this substantial progress. The inevitable result is legislation like this. It’s fine that USEPA is pushing, but you have to know when to say enough. This legislation is a clear example of this EPA not knowing when to quit when it comes to coal matters.

  4. jw says:


    …Nice try.

    Plus, why should EPA be allowing permits when mountaintop removal is causing birth defects and when we can employ more people without mountaintop removal?

  5. Lee Johnson says:

    Please stop taking down our majestic , God-given mountains >

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