Clean Water, The EPA, and Corporate Greed

Clean Water, The EPA, and Corporate Greed

by July 18, 2014 0 comments


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The proceeding was released on July 16, 2014 by Trout Unlimited.

U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approves bills that undermine the Clean Water Act
MAJORITY OF COMMITTEE MEMBERS TURN THEIR BACKS ON AMERICAN SPORTSMEN AND WOMEN BY APPROVING BILLS THAT STOP REGULATORY OVERSIGHT IN BRISTOL BAY AND ON OUR NATION’S RIVERS

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee today approved three bills that undermine the Clean Water Act, while handing a gift to the destructive Pebble Mine proposal in Alaska and turning its back on American sportsmen and women, said Steve Moyer, Trout Unlimited’s vice president of government affairs.

“Forty years ago the House Transportation and Infrastructure committee played a leadership role in enacting one of the nation’s most vital natural resource conservation laws, the Clean Water Act. Today, the Committee hammered the law with some of the most ill-conceived attacks in the history of the act,” Moyer said. The committee approved the following bills:

H.R. 4854, the “Regulatory Certainty Act” would prohibit potential action by EPA to protect the commercial and sport fisheries of Bristol Bay, as well as the 14,000 jobs those fisheries provide. The bill also ignores local communities and local people, including Alaska natives who have asked to be saved from the impacts of the massive Pebble Mine proposal. The bill would render inoperable EPA’s 404c authority to stop hugely destructive activities, like the proposed open-pit mine that would be situated in the headwaters of the Bristol Bay drainage among some of the most productive salmon rivers in the world.

“Abandoned by its financiers, unable to produce a permit application after eight years of broken promises, and willing to sacrifice sport, commercial and native Alaskan fisheries of Bristol Bay, today the Pebble Limited Partnership finally found a friend: The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee,” said Tim Bristol, director of Trout Unlimited’s Alaska Program. “Alaskans are deeply distressed by today’s vote and will fight the legislation through every remaining step of the process.”

H.R. 5078, the “Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act of 2014” would derail the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers’ proposed “Waters of the U.S.” rule that will protect headwater streams and wetlands. This critical rule clarifies the scope of the Clean Water Act by clearly defining which waterways are covered by the Act. Legitimate concerns about the rule can and should be addressed during the rulemaking process, not through poorly conceived legislation, such as HR 5078.

H.R. 5077, the “Coal Jobs Protection Act of 2014” would to weaken the Clean Water Act to make it easier to pollute and fill waterways. Among other things, this bill imposes rigid deadlines for decisions on dredge and fill permits tied to the submission of the application and NOT to completion of a meaningful review of the project’s impacts, and automatically approves projects where those deadlines are not met. This undermines the ability to conduct effective reviews and creates an incentive for the Corps to delay reviews so they can deem permits to be approved without appropriate reviews.

Today the majority of the committee seemed to forget that America’s 47 million anglers and hunters rely on clean water for access to quality days in the field spent hunting and fishing. Destruction of headwater streams and wetlands threaten America’s hunting and fishing economy – which accounts for more than $200 billion in economic activity each year and 1.5 million jobs, supporting rural communities across the country.

Some members of the committee did not forget the purpose of the Clean Water Act, and distinguished themselves through leadership and speaking roles in defense of the nation’s waterways. TU would like to thank Reps. Bishop, Edwards, Napolitano, DeFazio, Holmes, Norton, Garamendi, Larsen, Nadler, Maloney, and all of those committee members who opposed the bad bills.

We urge the House to reject these bills and instead take a fresh look at what the Congress needs to do to help the Nation achieve the splendid goal—“restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation’s waters”—that it established 42 years ago when the Clean Water Act was signed into law by President Nixon.

Trout Unlimited is the nation’s oldest and largest coldwater fisheries conservation organization dedicated to conserving, protecting and restoring North America’s trout and salmon and their watersheds. Follow TU on Facebook and Twitter, and visit us online at tu.org.

Permission Granted by Steve Moyer at Trout Unlimited to use to above in it’s entirety.

What follows is my opinion not necessarily that of TU.org

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee appears to be in the pockets of big business! Who would a thunk it, right? Seldom do I like to get into politics on TenkaraGrasshopper.com but in this situation the reality of poor decisions on the part of our Federal Government glaringly shine through.

When it was first reported that the U.S. Transportation and Infrastructure Committee was looking to approve the above three bills above I felt a hole in my stomach develop. At first I thought it was just gas, but sadly it was a premonition of bad things to come. I wish that the sick feeling had not come true but alas it has.

I want to make it very clear that I am not simply writing this post as an angler and guide who loves the waters that I fish throughout this country but also as a new father who wants to make sure that my son and future children, (may God bless us with another), and my son’s children have clean water to drink and recreate in.

United States Environmental Protection Agency logo

 

As a citizen of the United States of America, which by the way is considered a “First World” country, I enjoy clean water for drinking and recreating in. I have and always will support the function of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as every citizen of this country should no matter whether you are a private citizen or a member of a larger corporate conglomerate.

One of the functions of the United States EPA is to enforce the regulations put forth in the Federal Water Pollution Act enacted in 1948 and amended in 1972 when it became know as the Clean Water Act (CWA). With this act the EPA has been able to make regulations in regards to pollutants released into the waters of the United States. They have also been able to control or prohibit damage to water resources by stopping the development of industries in areas that could be negatively impacted by poor environmental practices by any of a number of industries.

According to the United States EPA website: The Office of Water (OW) ensures drinking water is safe, and restores and maintains oceans, watersheds, and their aquatic ecosystems to protect human health, support economic and recreational activities, and provide healthy habitat for fish, plants, and wildlife.1

Due to the above statement from the United States EPA we should expect that the OW performs it’s function in a manner in accordance with the mandates of the CWA as it was amended in 1972. Because of the bills that were recently pushed forward by the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee the function of the EPA is being hamstrung. If these bills do make it to Congress and they pass, which we can only pray that they do not, the EPA will no longer be able to stop corporate greed from destroying our fresh water resources that we all hold as a God given right.

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One region in particular has the proverbial writing on the wall, that I and many others for that matter, can see is Bristol Bay, Alaska. There has been a looming threat from the development of the Pebble Mine at the headwaters of the Bristol Bay fishery. Through the actions of organizations like Trout Unlimited, Stop Pebble Mine, local tribes, and the local guides and lodges in the area, along with the phones calls and letters written by incensed anglers and hunters the partners in this endeavor gave up on the project. The public outcry was enough to get the corporate partners to run before they lost more money. What appeared to be the final nail in the coffin for the Pebble Mine project was the final assessment by the EPA stating the potential damages that could occur if Pebble was to continue.

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Bristol Bay Photo by Jim Klug Photo Courtesy of Trout Unlimited

As I read the Final Assessment by the EPA, I became very nervous about the potential damages to an area as beautiful as Bristol Bay. The potential failures in the design of the Pebble Mine project were totally unacceptable to me and I don’t love anywhere near where the potential disasters could occur. And it was not just the potential natural disasters that bothered me! The health and well-being of an amazing fishery was not the tantamount issue that I saw but the loathsome effects on the native tribes who lived in the area. The ancient industry of catching and selling fish to markets would be greatly affected. Additionally, the region that would be covered by the mine project would also bleed into sacred lands and sites important to the indigenous population. I don’t know about you, but I like my church and it’s current location along with the burial plot that my family has, and I would not be in the least bit pleased to find out that both were being destroyed simply so that some individual can line his pockets with more money and no consideration for me whether I am alive or dead.

bristol bay grizzly bear

Bristol Bay Grizzly Photo by Jim Klug Photo Courtesy of Trout Unlimited

The EPA clearly stated in their assessment that the development of the mine would also adversely affect the tourist economy in the Bristol Bay region. Fishing and hunting lodges in the area would see lower numbers of guests due to the limited or disrupted paths of mulitiple species of migrating animal species both mammal and piscatoral. The assessment looked at the residual effects of the mine after it was no longer viable as a mining operation. I can only describe the picture that was painted as pure desolation, a la Mordor.

With this assessment many of the original partners pulled out of the project realizing that they had been resoundingly beaten by those who had an inborn as well as an inherent love for untouched beauty. We all did our part in one way or another to voice our displeasure about the Pebble proposal. We thought we had won the battle and started partying and moved on to other things. Or at least many did, myself included, who figured all was said and done,not by a long shot my friends. How wrong we were because there were no treaties signed or declarations of the end of hostilities.

With these three new bills being introduced to Congress, (how soon remains to be seen, stay tuned), the sore that was the Pebble Mine project that was festering has now been broken open and is starting to spew puss far and wide.

H.R. 4854, the “Regulatory Certainty Act” would undermine and destroy the EPA’s ability to exercise it’s 404c clout to stop the development of open-pit mining in the Bristol Bay region. What I find truly ghastly about this is that it would clearly set a precendent for future open-pit mines throughout the United States. And I for one despise this potential ruination of our wildlands. Could this Act allow Congress to open our National Parks to mining exploration and large scale mining operations? I don’t know all the legal ramifications and don’t know if it is a possibility but I sure don’t want to find out the hard way!!!

H.R. 5078, known as the “Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act of 2014” would nullify the ability of the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to protect headwaters and critical wetlands. Because of this act there will more than likely be far reaching repurcussions not just in Bristol Bay but around the country as a whole. As anglers and hunts we need to act to stop this legislation from going through so that there are not rampant damages that occur in all wilderness places we love.

H.R. 5077, “The Coal Jobs Protection Act of 2014” raises issues in regards to river beds and stream beds by stifling the ability of the EPA to study a proposal in a timely manner to do the appropriate scientific research to see what effects could be negative for a section of water or a river. By setting strict parameters for a permit to be granted or not, if the EPA were to miss a deadline the permit is automatically granted. Not a cool thing in my opinion because those who are greedy will find ways to stymie the forward progress of the EPA and their research.

As the reader can see, these bills are terrible for this country as a whole. We as citizens of this country need to express our displeasure with the above bills to the members of Congress. The actions that will get that word across is both massive letter writing campaigns and even calling your state representatives and voicing your displeasure. Below I have included the link to the United States House of Representatives and by clicking on the link you can then search out your representative and find the appropriate contact information. I only ask that when you contact your representative that you keep your language clean and simply express your displeasure with the above noted bills and ask them to vote against these bills.

united states house of representatives

As time goes forward there may be more actions we can actively participate in so please stay in touch as I will do my best to forward more information on to you all as it becomes available.

This is our land and we need to protect our rights as well as our natural resources. Fight the good fight and the EPA will be able to continue doing what it was created to do in the first place!!!!!!

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A Beauty from Bristol Bay Photo by Jim Klug Photo Courtesy of Trout Unlimited

1 Summary of Clean Water Act http://www2.epa.gov/laws-regulations/summary-clean-water-act Accessed 7/17/2014↩

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