Bill would give states veto power over clean water rules

By James Bruggers,
26 June 2011

Pollution we make here in Kentucky and Indiana washes into the Ohio River, which in turn gets into the Mississippi which in turn gets into the Gulf of Mexico. There, nutrients from what we flush down the toilet, spread on our lawns and gardens, and dump on our farms (among other sources), ends up contributing to an oxygen-depleted "dead zone" of 
epic proportions, as the ‘Dog has written about before.

Now check out the map, above, from NASA, showing dead zones around the world. All those places highlighted as in a similar situation. The map comes from here, which also includes an explanation:

It’s no coincidence that dead zones occur downriver of places where human population density is high (darkest brown). Some of the fertilizer we apply to crops is washed into streams and rivers. Fertilizer-laden runoff triggers explosive planktonic  algae growth in coastal areas. The algae die and rain down into deep waters, where their remains are like fertilizer for microbes. The microbes decompose the organic matter, using up the oxygen. Mass killing of fish and other sea life often results.

Satellites can observe changes in the way the ocean surface reflects and absorbs sunlight when the water holds a lot of particles of organic matter. Darker blues in this image show higher concentrations of particulate organic matter, an indication of the overly fertile waters that can culminate in dead zones.

Credit:  NASA


The Clean Water Act was supposed to have cleaned up our waterways by now. Meanwhile, in the U.S. House of Representatives, a bill supported by some Kentucky lawmakers (Hal Rogers and Bret Guthrie) and others seeks to limit federal authority in establishing clean water standards.

The Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act would amend the Clean Water Act to "preserve the authority of each state to make determinations relating to the state’s water quality standards, and for other purposes." It passed the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure last week.

While aimed at stopping the EPA from imposing new rules on discharges from mining in Appalachian states, unless a state agrees, it’s language appears to more general:

– (EPA) Administrator may not promulgate a revised or new standard for a pollutant in any case in which the State has submitted to the Administrator and the Administrator has approved a water quality standard for that pollutant, unless the State concurs with the Administrator’s determination that the revised or new standard is necessary to meet the requirements of this Act.’.

EPA goes as far as saying it would overturn the Clean Water Act.

One of it’s main sponsors, Rep. John Mica of Florida, explained his support for the bill this way, according to local news coverage:

A statement form Mica released after the hearings said EPA was hurting the economy with water regulations that aren’t needed and cost too much.

"EPA’s regulatory jihad is strangling any chance of economic recovery," read the statement. "Its costly, burdensome policies will double struggling families’ water bills while providing little to no benefit to water quality."

House Majority Leader Cantor has put the bill on his priority list for passing this summer.