AUSTIN – 75% of streams across the state could remain vulnerable to development and pollution, under a bill approved yesterday by the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 262-152. The waters affected flow into important waterways including the Edwards Aquifer, the Trinity River, Caddo Lake, Galveston Bay and the Rio Grande.
“Given how much Texans use and enjoy them, we should be doing everything we can to protect our rivers and streams,” said Luke Metzger, Director of Environment Texas. “Yet the polluters and their allies in Congress are doing everything they can to put our waters in jeopardy.”
The bill, HR 5078, would bar the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from restoring protections of the Clean Water Act to more than half of the nation’s rivers and streams, including 143,000 miles of Texas streams, left in limbo for nearly a decade after a pair of Supreme Court decisions created a loophole in the law. 29 members of Congress from Texas voted for the bill.
In March, EPA proposed a rule to close this loophole and again safeguard under federal law the state’s smaller headwaters and streams along with 20 million acres of wetlands across the country.
A broad coalition of clean water advocates, farmers, mayors, small businesses, local elected officials and thousands of Texans have heralded the EPA move, but agribusinesses, oil and gas companies, and other polluters affected by the rule have waged a bitter campaign against it.
“Instead of siding with our rivers and the Texans who love to fish, boat and swim in them,” said Metzger, “the House chose to side with the polluters.”
The attack blocks both the proposed rule and anything that might resemble it, and delays any effort to clarify the scope of the Clean Water Act for up to two years. The White House has threatened to veto the measure, whose prospects are less certain in the Senate.
“As if disregarding science and commonsense weren’t enough, H.R. 5078 silences the public,” said David Foster, Texas Director for Clean Water Action. “It cuts the public comment process short and ensures that EPA and the Corps can’t consider more than 600,000 comments from people who support this rule to better protect our water. H.R. 5078 tells Americans that the voices of deep-pocketed polluters are more important than the people and communities who are affected by dirty water and pollution.”
Environment Texas is a statewide, citizen-funded advocacy organization working for the places we love and the environmental values we share. Clean Water Action is a national grassroots groups focused on water, energy, and environmental health with over 50,000 members in Texas.