Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Senate Hearing On Clean Water Restoration Act

Apr 9: The Senate Environment and Pubic Works Committee, Chaired by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), held a hearing entitled, “Legislative Hearing on S. 1870, the Clean Water Restoration Act of 2007 [See WIMS 5/22/07]." Witnesses testifying at the hearing included Carol Browner, former U.S. EPA Administrator and now a principal with The Albright Group, LLC; and representatives of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation; Arizona Department of Environmental Quality; Madison County, State of Ohio; and Smith 6-S Livestock.

The original House bill, introduced by Representative Jim Oberstar (D-MN), Chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee along with 175 cosponsors (companion bill Senate bill S.1870), is regarded by proponents as a "fix" designed to restore the authority of the Clean Water Act so it has the same effect it had prior to the Supreme Court’s rulings in 2001 and 2006 that question the ability of U.S. EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to enforce the Clean Water Act on wetlands, streams and ponds that are not part of a major “navigable” waterway [Access various posts on WIMS-eNewsUSA Blog and the WIMS-EcoBizPort Special Report on the Rapanos Supreme Court Decision & Related Activities]. The first sentence of the act reads, “The Purpose of this act is as follows: To reaffirm the original intent of Congress in enacting the Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972 (86 Stat. 816) to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the waters of the United States.” CWRA would also reaffirm exemptions for farming, mining, logging and other activities that are not regulated by the Clean Water Act.

Senator Boxer's opening statement was not readily available but she indicated that the CWA authorities should be increased -- not decreased. She said the current problems with the CWA are the result of "activist Justices" and their interpretation of the Act. In his opening statement, Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) said, "This bill, as currently written, will expand federal jurisdiction authority in a way that pushes the outer limits of Congress’s constitutional role. If Congress is to amend the Clean Water Act, any changes must provide clarity and reduce lawsuits. This bill does neither. It will not curtail litigation, but rather increase it, as stakeholders seek legal clarity on what exactly are the outer limits of Congressional authority. We should not propose and pass legislative language that increases uncertainty and increases an already litigious environment."

A number of major environmental and conservations organizations are supporting the act including: American Rivers; Clean Water Network; Earthjustice; Environment America; Izaak Walton League of America; League of Conservation Voters; National Wildlife Federation; Natural Resources Defense Council; Sierra Club; Southern Environmental Law Center; Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership; and Trout Unlimited. The groups issued a joint release saying, “The Supreme Court and the Bush Administration have placed vital Clean Water Act protections in doubt for many important waters, making it easier to pollute and destroy these waters. Corporations and developers are spending millions to defeat this bill, because taking responsibility for safeguarding clean water cuts into company profits."

Access the hearing website for links to all testimony, opening statements and a webcast (
click here). Access a release from environmental/conservation groups (click here). Access legislative details for S. 1870 (click here). Access legislative details for H.R. 2421 (click here). [*Water]


Peter Maier said...

While farmers are getting blamed for their pollution (CAFO’s and agricultural runoff), cities still are allowed to dump the same pollution (nutrients) in our open waters, since EPA still allows cities to use open waters as urinals, in spite of the fact that the goal of the Clean water Act was to eliminate (100% treatment) all water pollution by 1985.

The reason? Simple, but also very embarrassing!
EPA, like the rest of the world, used an essential pollution test incorrect and the pollution (now called nutrients) caused by nitrogenous (urine and protein) waste and prior to 1984 would fine and replace treatment facilities considered to be out of compliance with their NPDES permits, while in reality these facilities treated their sewage better than was required by their permits. Nitrogenous (urine and proteins) waste like fecal waste exerts an oxygen demand, but in all its forms is a nutrient (fertilizer) for algae and aquatic plants.

In 1984 EPA acknowledge the problems with this test, but in stead of correcting this test (so we finally would be able to evaluate the true performance of such facilities and determine what their effluent waste loading on open waters would be), EPA allowed an alternative test and officially lowered the goal of the CWA from 100% treatment to a measly 35% treatment, without even informing Congress, as apparently the media also did not understand what was going on.

But who cares, this is a technical issue and for that you have to trust the experts, who clearly in this case prefer the status quo. Copied some paragraphs from a HCN article in 1987 and if you like to know more you can visit my website and in the Technical PDF section read a description of the BOD test and the consequences if you apply the test as still is applied.

Following paragraphs from a 1987 article in High Country News, explaining the crux of these problems.


With his attack on the BOD5 test and the design of sewage treatment plants, Maier broadened his critique from. Salt Lake City to the national clean-water program. Washington, D.C. water-lawyer Larry Silverman says that people at EPA headquarters tell him off the record that Maier is right, and that
regulations and tests can and should be improved. But, they also tell him change is impossible because, Silverman says, "It would require the re-education of an entire industry." He adds that it might also require the re-tooling of an industry that is happy with the status quo.

Salt Lake City illustrates the industry's ability to resist change. According to Silverman, "In Salt Lake City, as in most of the country, there is a sewer lobby. They have a product to sell and they sold it. There are equipment manufacturers, engineers who designed it, construction companies that built it. They are all good citizens in the sense that they support the local politicians; they are well placed and highly organized."

Thanks to the huge sums allocated to sewage plant construction under the Clean Water Act, this environmental-industrial complex has an open door to the federal treasury. It also has a monopoly on the knowledge needed to evaluate the projects it proposes and builds.

The Nation has thrown massive resources at the water pollution problems since 1972, only to witness the 'relative failure of the regulatory and technical solutions it chose. The blame can be spread far and wide.

Brigham Young University's Professor LaVere Merritt, who was also on the Governor's Science Council committee that investigated the controversy, says Maier is a very important voice in the wilderness. "Peter (Maier) may help move us towards a more rational approach in pollution control over time. He is a not-to-well received proponent of a valid point of view, one we will probably move to in the future".
For entire article visit in the articles PDF section.


Anonymous said...

On a smaller county-wide scale, my county lies within the NYC watershed...the city has $300 million to purchase as much land as possible over ten years...90% will be in this cannot afford to keep their land and sell it to the city....while walmart gets "grandfathered" in to dump directly into the Susquehanna River which goes directly to Chesapeake Bay...and since it is not in the NYC watershed, although ultimately just as, if not much more, is not regulated at all....there is a demarcation line between chesapeake bay watershed and the NYC watershed...every city, village, town here, when outside the NYC watershed...feels zero imperative to control runoff, such as phosphorous from farms, or wastewater treatment plants....*&( ROLLS DOWNHILL.....the only more stringent standard is nonpoint runoff is somewhat regulated....but since that is not well is business as usual.......