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E-M:/ Anti Clean Water Rider Update
Enviro-Mich message from Bethany Renfer
For those that are following the issue here, is the lasted twist to the
TMDL anti clean water rider that is currently sitting on the president's
Clean Water Action
Clinton slips past congressional water cleanup ban
Thursday, July 6, 2000
By SETH BORENSTEIN
and STEVEN THOMMA
Knight Ridder Newspapers
WASHINGTON -- Despite an act just passed by Congress that expressly
forbids it, the Clinton administration has found a way to impose tough
new rules to clean up waterways polluted by runoff from farms, forests,
The secret: President Clinton has ordered the Environmental Protection
Agency to rush the rules to completion before the deadline next Thursday
for his signature making the bill a law. Involved is a type of runoff
that the administration says pollutes 20,000 U.S. rivers, lakes, and
If Republicans complain, experts say, they'll only be affirming the
administration's -- and presidential candidate Al Gore's -- environmental
Congress laid down the first card in this particular political poker
game, writing the prohibition as an unrelated measure, called a rider,
into a $20 billion emergency military spending bill that passed Friday.
Clinton responded by ordering EPA regulation writers to work overtime,
White House spokesman Jake Siewert confirmed late Wednesday.
"We're trying to render the rider meaningless. We're trying to
finalize the rule, and we're trying to do it as quickly as
possible," Siewert said by phone from New York, where he was
traveling with the president.
Clinton has increasingly resorted to executive prerogatives to defy the
will of the Republican-controlled Congress.
For years environmentalists have pressed the federal government to crack
down on so-called "non-point source" contamination of the
nation's still-polluted rivers, lakes, and estuaries. Recognizing that
regulation of companies dumping effluent directly into waterways was
already tight, the idea was to curb pollution that gets into water
indirectly, through runoff from storm sewers, suburban lawn chemicals,
farms, and the timber industry.
In August, Clinton announced in his weekly radio address that the EPA
would clamp down on such runoff. The mechanism was a rule called Total
Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), instructing states to set limits on how much
contamination would be tolerated in each waterway and how much pollution
reduction would be demanded from factories, sewage treatment plants,
farms, and sources of urban runoff.
"We're taking new action to ensure that every river, lake, and bay
in America is clean and safe," Clinton said in August. "The EPA
will work in partnership with states to assess the state of all our
waterways to identify the most polluted waters and to develop strong,
enforceable plans to restore them to health."
The proposal ran into heavy criticism from timber, agriculture, and
manufacturing officials, all of whom said it was unnecessary.
"States that have required credible data found a dramatic drop in
the number of water bodies listed as impaired, allowing those states to
focus their limited resources on real problems," George Ice,
principal scientist at the Society of American Foresters, told Congress
With what they called bipartisan support, Sens. Tim Hutchinson, R-Ark.,
and Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., inserted language into the military
appropriations bill barring the use of federal money to pay for any new
regulation on non-point source pollution.
"This language will put the brakes on the EPA's plans to force
Arkansans to comply with the unnecessary and extremely harsh regulations
proposed," Hutchinson said Friday in a news release.
The key word in the rider was "new." The president has until
next Thursday to sign the military spending bill, so if the EPA can
complete the nearly finished rules quickly, the prohibition will be
"It won't be new, and the law will be pointless," said
University of Virginia government Professor Larry Sabato. "As usual,
Clinton holds all the aces."
Environmentalists are ecstatic.
"This should serve as a lesson to Congress that they can't pass
anti-environmental riders and get away with it," said Sierra Club
senior representative Ed Hopkins. "Forty percent of the nation's
waters are not meeting water quality standards right now. Without an
effective TMDL program, the nation's cleanup progress will essentially
come to a halt."
But the rider's authors are upset.
"If this is true, then the administration is playing pure politics
in trying to circumvent the process," said Sue Hensley, a
spokeswoman for Hutchinson. "If the administration thinks they're
getting away with something here, I would say wait until people hear
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