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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 desk.

Bethany Renfer
Program Coordinator
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, and cities.
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 bays.
If Republicans complain, experts say, they'll only be affirming the administration's -- and presidential candidate Al Gore's -- environmental credentials.
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 last week.
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 meaningless.
"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 about this."
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