Minutes after the US Senate Environment and Public Works Committee voted in favor of the Clean Water Restoration Act, Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID) put a hold on the legislation setting the scene for a battle and possibly defeat on the US Senate floor.
“Despite changes, water bill faces certain demise in the Senate,” stated a press release sent by Matt Dempsey who works for the minority members of the EPW Committee. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the ranking Republican on the Committee told reporters that the bill was a “dagger directed right at America’s heartland.”
Not a single republican on the EPW committee voted for CWRA – not even Great Lakes Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH) – a man who knows how much CWRA will help the Lakes.
“Today’s debate suggests that they may have enough votes to sustain a filibuster,” said Chad Lord, legislative director for the Healing Our Waters Great Lakes Coalition.
The drama set to unfold on the Senate floor will reveal that the Republicans are more concerned that farmers, developers and industry stakeholders will have to deal with burdensome regulations than having clean drinking water for their constituents.
In reality, all that the compromise legislation does is remove the word “navigable” replacing it with “waters of the United States” returning the Clean Water Act to its original intent by protecting the same waters and wetlands intended in the law that President Nixon (read: Republican) signed in 1972.
Opponents have been making a “red herring” argument that CWRA will bring government regulators out to every watering hole and puddle in the States to wield unparallel power over anything wet. But if you read the bill it spells out exemptions that prove this rhetoric wrong. In fact, the bill does not regulate farm or stock ponds, irrigation ditches, drainage ditches, dredged or fill materials resulting from normal farming and ranching activates. The legislation also exempts agriculture and mining run off, as well as sewer facilities. The list of exemptions goes on and on.
What it does do is modestly protect the Nation’s drinking water and many local economies. It also protects Lake Michigan by keeping the streams and wetlands that feed the lakes free from dangerous pollution.
“Our most cherished iconic waterways, Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River, can only be as healthy as the streams and wetlands that feed and clean them,” Max Muller, program director at Environment Illinois, told Environment News Service. According to the same article, the US EPA estimates that more than half of Illinois streams are in danger of increased pollution if this bill fails – streams that provide drinking water for more than 1.6 million Illinois residents.
In the end, this debate can be boiled down to one question: are you for polluting our drinking water or against it?