Good and Evil in the Great Lakes Clean Water Debate

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?

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7 Responses to Good and Evil in the Great Lakes Clean Water Debate

  1. Sharon Scotellaro says:

    Just drove over the Mississippi River going to and from Iowa from my home in Illinois.
    I was amazed by this river’s magntude and beauty.
    Please do whatever it takes to preserve this wonderful natural resource and keep it’s waters safe and clean!

    • Tiffany Danitz Pache says:

      Great point. The Mississippi is just one of the many tributaries to the Great Lakes that needs to be protected under the Clean Water Act. Thanks for sharing your musings.

  2. Julie Peck says:

    Although I am not knowledgeable in the ways of the Senate and how the majority of the country’s economics works I would think that a Nation that stands for Freedom, Liberty, and Rights for all men would be able to offer safe drinking water. People in West Virginia are having to avoid their tap water because it causes skin damage and diseases. What human being would refuse to give other humans safe drinking water. For that matter, we pay for this safety, we all pay taxes and have water bills. Why is it that I pay hundreds a month for water if it is not going to be clean?

    This is insulting to the American people and beyond that it makes Americans look like fools. How can we be proud to be American if we cannot help our own people survive? No matter the hardships we are going through we should first take care of our people and then look to the rest of the world. We refer to many countries as developing and third-world countries but we have thousands of people suffering from the same problems: poverty, starvation, homelessness, and now unhealthy drinking water. Any Senator who believes he is helping his constituents by not passing this particular bill to protect every American, does not deserve to be a Senator nor an American.

    • Tiffany Danitz Pache says:

      We can only hope more Americans will see your point, Julie. It is so important that we keep our water safe. The Great Lakes are the largest system of surface fresh water in the world! There may be a time in the future when a lot more people are in need of fresh water and we need our lawmakers to keep this in mind.

  3. Karen Buck says:

    This should cover all water ways. I appears that the opponents are exempting all the polluters. How can people forget the recalls of spinach and tomatoes after polluted water irrigation ditches from cattle ranches? People got sick. Why should they be exempt from keeping our water ways clean? All water drains down hill, maybe it should drain to the Capitol Hill. Let’s have Erin Brockovich fill the Congress water glasses. Have people forgotten dead Lake Erie?
    We need corporate responsibility, then profits. We can blame shareholders for demanding the impossible. Does that include you and me?

    • Tiffany Danitz Pache says:

      There are significant exemptions, but that is how the sausage is made in Congress. It would be nice if we could make people understand the consequences of these exemptions but the farms, ranches and miners have a lot of influence in Congress. So much so, that some of our Great Lakes lawmakers who have been fantastic advocates in the past are shying away and not supporting this legislation.