Lawmakers praise Clean Water Act, offer differing views of its future
Written byANNIE SNIDER, E&E
As the Clean Water Act marked its 40th anniversary yesterday, lawmakers used the occasion to fete the law's successes and push their various visions for its future.
Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), one of the architects of the 1972 law, celebrated with conservationists and sportsmen on the banks of the Huron River yesterday, while Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) presided over a Capitol Hill celebration hosted by green groups that included champagne, a blue three-layer cake with waves curling along its sides, and Canadian paddlers who had traveled to Washington, D.C., from Ottawa by canoe.
To underscore how far the nation's waters have come, Moran described a fishing trip that John F. Kennedy took on the Potomac River shortly after being elected to the Senate in 1953. The boat tipped over, Moran said, and Kennedy -- who had survived a torpedo attack on his PT boat during World War II -- called his dip in the polluted Potomac one of the most dangerous experiences of his life.
Today, "It's self-evident that the Clean Water Act is working right in front of all of the members of our national legislature," said Moran, the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies. "There's a largemouth bass fishery now, we have sport fishing, we have boating, canoeing, and we even had a triathlon, including a swim in the Potomac River -- and everybody is still alive!"
But "the glass is only half full," Moran said, calling out potential cuts under the Republican budget and sequestration to the Clean Water and Safe Drinking Water state revolving funds, which make low-interest loans to communities to update aging infrastructure (E&ENews PM, June 19).
Rep. Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.), the ranking member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee's Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee, also used the occasion to blast legislation from Republicans, especially H.R. 2018, which he said would "significantly undermine" the Clean Water Act (E&E Daily, July 14, 2011).
"Now is the time to be building on the Clean Water Act's achievements, not turning our back on them," Bishop said in a statement.
But Bishop's Republican counterpart on the subcommittee, Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio), joined Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) in arguing that the real threat to the landmark law comes not from the GOP, but from "overzealous EPA bureaucrats" and activists.
"EPA's and the activists' actions are creating financial pressures and an atmosphere of regulatory uncertainty for states, municipalities, and the regulated community, and are having a chilling effect on the nation's economy and job creation," the pair said in a statement.
"Their actions also are creating substantial animosity toward the Clean Water Act and toward environmental protection in general, which is harmful to both the economy and the environment and counterproductive to achieving further water quality improvements."