Today, Congressman John D. Dingell (D-MI12) voted in favor of H.R. 3080, the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2013 (WRRDA). The bipartisan legislation gives direction to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to address much needed modernization projects for the country's ports and waterways while also providing better access for Great Lakes ports to receive federal funds. Such projects will create much needed jobs and increase port capacity.
Dingell also expressed reservations of language regarding "environmental streamlining" provisions that open loopholes in and prevent public comments and participation through the environmental review process created by the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA). As the author of NEPA, Dingell says the intent is to assure that federal agencies, such as the Corps of Engineers, weigh the environmental consequences of development projects before they are undertaken.
"Forty-five years ago, the United States had virtually no laws in place to protect the environment," said Dingell. "Private individuals, industry, and governments could burn into the air, pump into the water, or dump onto the ground virtually anything -- with impunity. Some of my proudest achievements during my service in Congress are having played a part in writing some landmark environmental protection statutes -- NEPA foremost among them. I worry that the provisions included in the bill before us today will lead us down a path of going back to those days of impunity and disregard for the well-being and concerns of the public."
As the WRRDA legislation moves to the Senate for further consideration, Dingell hopes bipartisan negotiations can lead to better environmental protections while ensure that these projects will move forward.