The House voted to give states more say over water quality standards. By a 239-184 vote, lawmakers backed a proposal (HR 2018) to limit the federal agency’s authority to enforce new or revised clean water standards. House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Mica, R-Fla., and Ranking Member Rahall, D-W.V., cosponsored the measure that would restrict the EPA’s authority under the Clean Water Act (CWA) to override state water pollution plans and enforce stricter standards.
The proposal comes in response 1) to EPA actions over the past two years to stall mountaintop mining in Appalachia over concerns about stream contamination and 2) to insist on numeric nutrient standards in Florida.
The House adopted, 268-152, an amendment by Rep. Capito, R-W.V., to require the EPA to look at the economic impact of its CWA-related actions before new changes are enacted.
Other GOP lawmakers argued the bill would curb an overly aggressive EPA, restoring the balance between states and the federal government on water quality regulation. Many in Congress have argued that under the longstanding system of CWA “cooperative federalism,” states have primary responsibility for water pollution control.
The measure did garner the backing of 16 Democrats but many Democrats worried that the legislation would allow states to create their own standards, to the detriment of neighboring states that share water resources. The White House also weighed in with concerns, issuing a veto threat on the bill and saying the bill would “significantly undermine the Clean Water Act and could adversely affect public health, the economy and the environment.”