Senator Jim Jeffords, I-Vt

Statement on Clean Water Act

Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, and Water Oversight Hearing

September 16, 2003

 

 

Mr. Chairman, I want to thank you for holding this hearing.  Clean water is one of our most basic needs and one of our greatest luxuries.  We are reminded time and time again of the role of clean water in our society as we see news coverage of the situation in Iraq. 

 

In our own country, just a month ago, the effects of an unreliable power grid spilled over into the water industry as wastewater treatment plants in Ohio dumped 60 million gallons of untreated sewage into receiving waters, closing beaches to swimming, and multiple cities were under boil water notices for days.

 

During the 107th Congress, as Chairman of this committee, I held a Clean Water Act oversight hearing on the 30th anniversary of the Act.  We heard from the EPA that forty-five percent of our waters cannot meet water quality standards.

 

Since our hearing in October of 2002, the Administration has chosen to go backward on Clean Water protections rather than forward.

 

Rather than step up to the challenge of cleaning up our remaining waters, the Administration is both failing to maintain the progress we have made since 1970 and failing to move forward on the remaining challenges that we all identified just one year ago. 

 

Today, we will review in detail the Administration’s actions on Total Daily Maximum Load, storm water, SPCC, and water quality trading.  We will also be covering the effect of section 309(c)(1), which, Mr. Chairman, I understand that you have a special interest in. 

 

I ask unanimous consent, Mr. Chairman, that testimony from Ms. Robin Greenwald and an October 2002 article from the Environmental Law Reporter on this topic be included in the hearing record. I am pleased that we have agreed, at your suggestion, to address enforcement issues in general at a broad hearing on EPA enforcement in the near future. 

 

I want to take a few minutes to provide some context for today’s discussion of this limited number of actions the Administration has taken under the guise of protecting our water quality. 

On January 15, 2003 the Bush Administration began a rulemaking process that threatens the integrity of the Clean Water Act by severely reducing the waters that it protects. 

 

In June 2003, reports surfaced that Clean Water Act enforcement was faltering under the Bush Administration.  An internal analysis performed by the EPA documented extensive non-compliance with discharge permits and a decline in enforcement activities.  For example, there was a forty-five percent decrease in EPA formal enforcement actions between 1999 and 2001. 

 

Since President Bush took office, he has pursued significant reductions in the enforcement capacity at the EPA.  Enforcement personnel have been reduced by 100. 

In January 2003, the President submitted his fiscal year 2004 budget.  It reduced clean water infrastructure spending by 40% from prior year funding levels. 

In March 2003, the Bush Administration withdrew the existing rule on Total Maximum Daily Load, or “TMDL”, without producing an alternative.  Today we will review the Administration’s latest draft regulation, which weakens protections for the dirtiest waters. 

On March 7, 2003, the EPA issued a final rule that extended the permit deadline by two years for storm water discharges for oil and gas construction activity that disturbs one to five acres of land. 

 

The EPA’s action gives a regulatory free-ride to the oil and gas industry while thousands of small communities and industries building construction projects struggle to comply with this same rule. 

 

In a similar action to benefit the oil and gas industry, the EPA extended the compliance deadline for the Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasures plan.  We will discuss this in more detail today.

 

Mr. Chairman, I could continue with a longer list, but I will end there. 

 

Each time I review this list, I am dumbfounded at the casual attitude of this Administration toward the future of our country.   It seems that the choices we witness each day are choices made with one thing in mind – immediate gratification of special interests at the expense of the environment. 

 

History will demonstrate that the changes I mentioned taken as a group will have been the largest step backwards in clean water protection in our nation’s history. 

 

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.