Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Protection Agency in Name Only

Its shaping up to be a bad year for the EPA. Last month, I covered a story about the lobby opposition to regulating CO2 under the Clean Air Act. But now, a new investigative report by the New York Times has found the Clean Water Act has been essentially gutted in recent years. Makes you wonder, what’s the point of having regulatory agencies if they keep getting stripped of their regulatory power?

The latest issue arises from a Supreme Court ruling that scrutinizes the language limiting regulation to “navigable waters.” This has historically been interpreted to include ecologically important wetlands and tributaries that connect to major bodies of water, like rivers. But of course, the lobbyists would have none of it!

The NYT reports:

“If you erase the word ‘navigable’ from the law, it erases any limitation on the federal government’s reach,” said Mr. Parrish of the American Farm Bureau Federation. “It could be a gutter, a roadside ditch or a rain puddle. But under the new law, the government gets control over it.”

“’If you can get Glenn Beck to say that government storm troopers are going to invade your property, farmers in the Midwest will light up their congressmen’s switchboards,’ said the coalition member, who asked not to be identified because he thought his descriptions would anger other coalition participants. Mr. Beck, a conservative commentator on Fox News, spoke at length against the Clean Water Restoration Act in December. “

Ugh.

The new rulings find that “waterways that are entirely within one state, creeks that sometimes go dry, and lakes unconnected to larger water systems may not be “navigable waters” and are therefore not covered by the act — even though pollution from such waterways can make its way into sources of drinking water.”

So what does this mean for our environment? Well, according to EPA reports, up to 45% of major polluters might now be out of regulatory reach. Whole water ways are now vulnerable and in some states, Clean Water programs are essentially being shut down. Here in New York, many of our watersheds that feed our drinking water supply are now unprotected.

This is not environmental protection. The change in interpretation of the language has caused some 1,500 major pollution investigations to be dropped in the last four years. This can only mean the future holds more incidents of pollution, more environmental degradation, more threats to public health and far less governmental power to stop the perpetrators.

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