Friday, June 15, 2012

Senator Rubio’s disastrous State Waters Partnership Act of 2012

As if there weren’t enough Clean Water attacks in the Farm Bill, Senator Marco Rubio’s disastrous State Waters Partnership Act of 2012 would stop EPA from developing numeric nutrient criteria in Florida.  Senator Rubio has introduced this Act as an amendment to the Farm Bill [SA 2261].  Senator Rubio’s bill would put an end to EPA’s ability to develop standards to tackle this serious public health threat in the Sunshine state.

See LETTER below that calls on Senators to keep the Farm Bill free of Clean Water Act attacks:

American Rivers * Chesapeake Bay Foundation * Clean Water Action * Clean Water Network * Defenders of Wildlife * Earthjustice * Environment America * League of Conservation Voters * National Audubon Society * Natural Resources Defense Council *
Sierra Club * Southern Environmental Law Center

June 13, 2012             

RE: Don’t Include Toxic Attacks on the Clean Water Act In the Farm Bill

Dear Senator,

Our organizations and our millions of members and supporters urge you to oppose amendments being offered to the 2012 Farm Bill that would undermine, overrule, or otherwise shred one of our nation’s most important public health safeguards, the Clean Water Act.  Please vote against any anti-Clean Water Act amendments as well as any other anti-environmental amendments offered when the Farm Bill is considered on the Senate floor.
Americans want and deserve clean water.  They do not want the U.S. Senate to gut their clean water law.  
As you know, the Farm Bill is one of the most important policies affecting U.S. agriculture.  It funds nutrition programs, land and water conservation, crop insurance, and energy projects.  The Farm Bill should not be larded up with reckless attacks on the Clean Water Act that add needless controversy while undermining the bill’s conservation goals.

Among the most damaging attacks on clean water and health is an amendment Senator Barrasso is offering that would block the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers from better protecting  small streams and wetlands as well as the rivers, lakes, streams, and bays they flow into and help keep clean. The streams the EPA and Corps policy will safeguard serve as sources of drinking water for 117 million Americans.  They are also where our families fish, swim, and boat and serve as vital habitat for fish and wildlife.  When the policy that the Barrasso amendment would block was published in the Federal Register last May, over 230,000 Americans responded, and over 90 percent favored the policy. 
In another attack on the Clean Water Act, Senator Paul has an amendment that effectively repeals the Clean Water Act.  The provision is poorly drafted and confusing, except in its clear goal of excluding many streams, rivers, wetlands and other waters from pollution limits under the Clean Water Act.  The amendment would exclude numerous waters that are not “navigable-in-fact”  from the Clean Water Act, including waters that have been protected by federal law since the 19th century.  Under Senator Paul’s proposal, waters that are not “navigable-in-fact” would only be covered under limited circumstances.  That throwback to the 1800s ignores the passage of the Clean Water Act completely. It is actually worse than the pre-Clean Water Act law, which covered tributaries from which pollution flowed into other waters, because the Paul amendment would even leave intermittent streams and other seasonal tributaries without protection.  The 1972 law, enacted by overwhelming bipartisan support in the Congress, changed the nation’s water laws in order to curb water  pollution broadly and  at its source in the watershed.  The Clean Water Act does so by protecting all “waters of the United States.”  Senator Paul’s attempt to turn back the clock on our water and public health gains in the last century  must be rejected.
Senators Hagan and Crapo are proposing an amendment that will result in more toxic waterways across the country.  Senator Johanns has also introduced virtually the same amendment.  These amendments remove all Clean Water Act protections for pesticides that are sprayed directly into streams, rivers, lakes, and other waters that are point source discharges.  Under current law, pesticides can be used in waterways, only it must be done safely. Supporters of these amendments want to eliminate the Clean Water Act safety review and allow pesticides to be sprayed as direct point source discharges in ways that could kill fish, destroy the quality of the water, and harm public health without limits. Many agricultural discharges are already exempt from the Clean Water Act, and health departments are already allowed to spray for mosquitoes to protect the public from West Nile and other outbreaks.   These amendments only serve to protect big pesticide companies who want to sell more of their toxic products. These amendments mean more poisons going into the very waters in which we swim, from which we fish, and from which we get our drinking water.  Already, more than 1000 waterways in the U.S. are impaired with pesticides.  These proposals from Senators Hagan and Crapo and Senator Johanns could add thousands more to that list.

These are not the only attacks on water offered as amendments to the Clean Water Act.  Senator Rubio just introduced an amendment to undo numeric limits of the discharge of manure, fertilizer, and sewage into Florida’s waters.  These waste discharges are responsible for toxic algae outbreaks that are destroying waters across the state with toxic slime.  Senator Inhofe (R-OK) introduced an amendment to prevent the EPA from updating its stormwater programs to better manage runoff, which can pollute our water with pathogens, excess nutrients, heavy metals and other contaminants that put people’s health at risk. Other amendments to block anti-water pollution rules or to create new special interest loopholes in the Clean Water Act have also been proposed. 

When you consider the Farm Bill and the good it could do for the American public, please do not undermine that goal by destroying the nation’s most important safeguard for clean water and public health.  The people of this country want and deserve better for the health of their families and safety of their communities.  Please oppose all anti-Clean Water amendments to the Farm bill.   Thank you.