From the Colorado Independent (Virginia Chamlee):
Rep. Jon Mica, R-FL, has introduced the “Clean Water for Cooperative Federalism Act of 2011″ (.pdf), a bill that aims to “amend the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to preserve the authority of each State to make determinations relating to the State’s water quality standards, and for other purposes.” In other words, Mica’s bill would rewrite the Clean Water Act — removing the EPA’s authority to object to state-approved permits and revise state water quality standards.
The bill would also limit the agency’s authority to veto dredge-and-fill permits, which some conservationists argue could be a threat to public health.
Among its provisions, the bill would remove the EPA’s authority to object to state-approved permits under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, which was put in place to manage discharges of pollutants into waterways. The EPA would also lose the ability to revise state water quality standards, an especially controversial measure considering the agency’s much-touted numeric nutrient criteria, a set of standards that aim to enhance pollution regulations in Florida waterways. The criteria are revered by environmentalists and abhorred by state lawmakers and industry heads who’d prefer not to increase costs simply for the sake of the environment.
More coverage from Stacy Detwiller writing for American Rivers. From the article:
Specifically, the bill attacks the shared responsibility between the states and the federal agencies for clean water. This careful balance allows states to take most of the responsibility for clean water programs, but ensures that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has sufficient oversight to make sure citizens in all states have similar access to clean and safe water. As an example, the bill removes the EPA’s authority to object to state-approved permits under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES), which was put in place to manage discharges of pollutants into our water. The EPA would also lose its ability to revise state water quality standards when those standards fail to protect clean water without approval from the states.
The bill also takes away EPA’s authority to veto dredge and fill permits [PDF] issued by the Army Corps of Engineers when a proposed activity would discharge dredge or fill materials into our rivers, lakes, and streams. Activities like mountaintop removal mining, for instance, where the tops of mountains are blown off to expose coal seams and the surrounding valleys and streams are filled with discarded rubble, would no longer be subject to veto by the EPA. This veto authority is scarcely used – it has only been employed 13 times. But when EPA does use this authority, it’s to stop projects that harm people and clean water.
Here’s the GovTrack link.
More H.R. 2018: The Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act of 2011 coverage here.