Dirty Water: It’s a State’s Right!

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From the Department of Orwellian bill titles, today we have the “Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act of 2011.” Cooperation! What a nice word. But in the case of the bill being considered today in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, what that actually means is taking away federal oversight when it comes to the Clean Water Act, one of the nation’s landmark environmental laws.

The bill’s text is here. The committee described the bill like this in a press release:

The bill amends the Clean Water Act (CWA) to restore the long-standing balance between federal and state partners in regulating the nation’s waters, and to preserve the system of cooperative federalism established under the CWA in which the primary responsibilities for water pollution control are allocated to the states. The bill restricts EPA’s ability to second-guess or delay a state’s permitting and water quality certification decisions under the CWA after the federal agency has already approved a state’s program.

Translated, that means that the bill would give states, not the federal government, the ultimate control over upholding the Clean Water Act on a number of permitting issues. In practice this would mean each individual state gets oversight over water policy, taking us back to the days of the Cuyahoga River fire and Love Canal, before Congress passed a federal law in 1972.

The bill is bipartisan, sponsored by Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.), and 32 others. Mica is hot and bothered about the Environmental Protection Agency’s efforts to address nutrient pollution in Florida’s waterways. Rahall is mad that the EPA rejected an application to dump strip mining waste from a mountaintop removal site in West Virginia. At least we can get representatives from both sides of the aisle to agree  on undermining the nation’s foundational environmental laws!

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We need to start raising significantly more in donations from our online community of readers, especially from those who read Mother Jones regularly but have never decided to pitch in because you figured others always will. We also need long-time and new donors, everyone, to keep showing up for us.

In "It's Not a Crisis. This Is the New Normal," we explain, as matter-of-factly as we can, what exactly our finances look like, how brutal it is to sustain quality journalism right now, what makes Mother Jones different than most of the news out there, and why support from readers is the only thing that keeps us going. Despite the challenges, we're optimistic we can increase the share of online readers who decide to donate—starting with hitting an ambitious $300,000 goal in just three weeks to make sure we can finish our fiscal year break-even in the coming months.

Please learn more about how Mother Jones works and our 47-year history of doing nonprofit journalism that you don't elsewhere—and help us do it with a donation if you can. We've already cut expenses and hitting our online goal is critical right now.

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