Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

Clean Water Act Advances to Full House; Committee Fends off Harmful Amendments

Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

Clean Water Act Advances to Full House; Committee Fends off Harmful Amendments

Article excerpt

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (Bud Shuster, R-Pa., Chrmn.) completed action on H.R. 961, a bi-partisan, $15 billion measure to reauthorize and amend the Clean Water Act. The measure was reported for full House consideration last Thursday by a vote of 42 to 16. Attempts to amend the measure by curtailing state and local flexibility were, for the most part, defeated during the three days of deliberation.

City officials can expect to hear about significant opposition to the bill, opposition organized at the national level by environmental organizations in an attempt to derail the landmark legislation when it reaches the House floor early this summer. The rhetoric -- "gutting the Clean Water Act," "rollback," "backsliding," "allowing polluters to determine compliance activities" -- is anticipated to be similar to that heard in response to state and local government attempts to amend the Safe Drinking Water Act in the last Congress.

In reality, the bill is a tribute to both state and local officials reflecting not only the progress the nation has made in attaining the goals and objectives of the Clean Water Act but also in recognizing the increasing sophistication of state and local governments in addressing their environmental priorities and concerns. The measure is an unprecedented expression of trust by the House committee that provides state and local governments with the flexibility to make decisions essential to protecting the nation's waterways in a manner that reflects state and local needs, priorities and resources.

In a major victory for cities, the committee defeated an amendment proposed by Rep. Norman Mineta (D-Calif.), the ranking minority member of the committee, to delete the proposed revisions to the stormwater management program and substitute a proposal developed by the Senate in the closing days of the last Congress. The Mineta amendment would have continued the requirement to obtain and implement stormwater permits for cities over 100,000 and their surrounding suburbs, delayed the requirement for these cities to meet water quality standards for ten years, and exempted rural small communities from requirements to manage stormwater run-off. The amendment was defeated 23 "yes" to 31 "no." A "no" vote supported the NLC position (see roll call vote below).

The committee retained the stormwater provisions proposed in H.R. 961 -- despite several attempts to delete or amend them -- which authorize states, in conjunction with local officials to develop management plans to control pollution from stormwater run-off. The committee also kept provisions repealing the current stormwater management permit program and overturning a court determination that stormwater is a point source of pollution. …

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