July 17, 2001
GROUPS DENOUNCE ADMINISTRATION'S ATTACK ON CLEAN WATER RULES
groups denounced a court action by the Bush Administration Monday as a
blatant attempt to help industry weaken Clean Water Act rules put in place
by the Clinton Administration. The rules govern the Nation's water pollution
clean-up program. The Administration's lawyers asked a federal court to
delay a lawsuit brought by industries against the rule because the Administration
plans a series of other actions to prevent its implementation.
"This is the first of
several steps in which the Bush Administration plans a huge retreat from
the new Clean Water rules developed by EPA under Clinton," said Nina Bell,
Executive Director of Northwest Environmental Advocates (NWEA). "Clean
water is the number one environmental priority of the American public.
But the Bush Administration appears to place a higher priority on keeping
polluters happy . Nowhere will this be more evident than the planned destruction
of this rule," she added.
The rule, which has
been challenged by a large number of industry groups, set out how a 1972
Clean Water Act requirement to develop Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs)
would be used to clean up the nation's most polluted waters. The new rules
were based on the input of a federal advisory committee made up of representatives
of all major interest groups. The Committee met for two years and produced
over 150 unanimous recommendations. EPA received over 34,000 comments
on the rule before it was finalized in July, 2000.
Rick Parrish, Senior
Attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) said, "Today's
court action sets in motion the Administration's plan to weaken this essential
water pollution clean-up program. It is a major environmental and public
health setback for the American people, similar to recent actions rolling
back regulations on arsenic limits in drinking water, mining restrictions,
and national forest protections."
A TMDL determines the
amount of pollution safe for people, fish, and wildlife for each waterbody
and divides the responsibility for reducing pollution between different
"Nearly 30 years after
Congress passed the Clean Water Act, the Bush Administration is weakening
a key program to clean up the unsafe pollution levels that plague nearly
half the Nation's waters," said Tim Eichenberg, Program Counsel for The
Ocean Conservancy. "Year after year, public health and the environment
are threatened due to waters that are unsafe for people and for aquatic
life. It is clear that a change is needed."
Across the country over
300,000 miles of river and shoreline and 5 million acres of lakes are
affected by the TMDL program. "Restoration will take far longer under
any weaker regime proposed by the Bush Administration," according to Parrish.
said that the Bush Administration will weaken the clean water rules in
a series of steps, rather than in one outright action, because it wants
to avoid public controversy. "This will be as close to a stealth attack
as the Administration can make it," said Bell. "But they are determined
to continue delivering dirty water to Americans," she added.
EPA has planned several
steps, starting with today's court filing. Within two weeks the agency
will issue a proposed rule to postpone the effective date of the Clinton
TMDL rule. Then, at some later date, EPA could issue a new proposal or
completely rescind the rule.
NWEA, SELC, and The
Ocean Conservancy are among many environmental groups that are parties
to the lawsuits filed by the American Farm Bureau, American Forest &
Paper Association, and other groups against EPA in the federal Court of
Appeals in the D.C. Circuit.
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