After three consecutive federal court decisions against the Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Pat Toomey (R-Penn.) introduced bipartisan legislation this week to reinforce efforts to rein in the EPA's repeated overreach under the Clean Water Act.
The Senate legislation is the companion bill to a bipartisan House measure -- the Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act (H.R. 2018) -- sponsored by Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) and John Mica (R-Fla.). Their bill, which passed the House 239-184, was supported by a diverse coalition of groups, including the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Mining Association, and the American Farm Bureau Federation.
The Senate bill would restore and guarantee the proper balance between states and the federal government in a way that protects water quality while also supporting economic growth and job creation. The measure would clarify that Congress intended states to have the primary responsibility in overseeing their land and water resources, not the EPA.
"I've fought against the overreach of the EPA for my entire career, and I'll continue to make sure that states take the lead when it comes to making sure they have a balance between their environment and their economy," Senator Manchin said. "The fact is, federal courts agree with us: the EPA has overstepped its bounds. They're now 0-3 in federal court cases involving their proper role in administering the Clean Water Act. With that being said, I know the fight isn't over until Congress makes it crystal clear that the EPA needs to operate within its proper boundaries, and that's why we're introducing this legislation."
"From delaying much-needed coal permits to overregulating our farmers, I constantly hear from my constituents about the obstacles the EPA has put in place that prevent Pennsylvanians from hiring and expanding their businesses. This legislation would rein in an overzealous agency, help create jobs, and return water quality regulatory powers to the states, where they belong. I appreciate the bipartisan support from Sen. Manchin and Reps. Mica and Rahall for this important legislation," Sen. Toomey said.
"Having crafted the House version of this pro jobs bill and gotten it passed last year, I am pleased that Senator Manchin is leading the charge in the Senate with this companion measure. Under the guise of ensuring clean water the EPA has circumvented Congress, strong armed our states, and threatened coal mining jobs. Our legislation ends this unconstitutional and indefensible practice by restoring the traditional balance between states and the federal government in the Clean Water Act permitting process," Rep. Nick Rahall said.
In addition, the bill would:
Prevent the EPA from issuing new or revised water quality standards for any state when the state already has an approved water quality standard in place, unless the state agrees;
Block the EPA from taking any action that supersedes a state certification that a discharge complies with state water quality standards;
Bar the EPA from vetoing a permit unless the state in which the discharge originates agrees;
Mandate that agencies, including the EPA, must comment on a permit application no later than 30 days -- or 60 days if additional time is requested -- after a permit application is received.