Mr. BLUMENAUER. Mr. Chairman, as the designee of the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. Markey), I have an amendment at the desk.
The Acting CHAIR. The Clerk will designate the amendment.
The text of the amendment is as follows:
At the end of the bill, add the following:
SEC. 6. PROTECTION OF WATERS PROVIDING CERTAIN BENEFITS.
None of the provisions of this Act, including the amendments made by this Act, shall apply to waters that, as determined by the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency--
(1) provide flood protection for communities;
(2) are a valuable fish and wildlife habitat that provides benefits to the economy; or
(3) are coastal recreational waters.
The Acting CHAIR. Pursuant to House Resolution 347, the gentleman from Oregon (Mr. Blumenauer) and a Member opposed each will control 5 minutes.
The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Oregon.
Mr. BLUMENAUER. I yield myself 3 minutes.
This amendment ensures protection for waters and wetlands that provide flood protection or economically valuable habitats for our coastal recreation waters.
Healthy streams and wetlands provide vital public benefits for flood protection, commerce and public health. As there is an effort on the part of my friends on the other side of the aisle to eliminate these critical protections, it's important to keep that in mind.
Pollution destroys habitat and cripples local fishing and tourism. There has been talk about economic development.
Well, it costs money to deal with treating polluted waters. There are 40 million recreational anglers in America that generate $125 billion in economic output, including $45 billion in retail sales and pay $16.4 billion in State and Federal taxes.
The sport supports over 1 million American jobs right here in the United States. And when a wetland is filled with sediment or drained, it can no longer protect towns from devastating floods.
We have had witness over the last couple of years of this devastating impact. An acre of wetland provides more than $10,000 per person in public benefits. If you lose 1 percent of a watershed's wetland, it can increase flood volume by almost 7 percent. These are nature's sponges that we need to protect.
It's also important to point out that not all States protect the quality of their water. Some States just simply don't care as much as other States; some States are not as capable of protecting it.
In those States where protection is lax, the EPA must have the authority to step in to protect the economy, the environment, and human welfare for residents in that State as well as the States that are downstream that would also be affected. We shouldn't have Americans held hostage to the lowest common denominator of people who are simply not going to maintain the standards.
This amendment preserves that authority for the EPA to protect communities who rely on water for fishing and other economic benefits, along with wetlands that create vital flood protection.
Mr. Chairman, the American public strongly supports clean water. This has been one of the most popular pieces of legislation since it was enacted in the Nixon administration. It, until now, has had pretty broad bipartisan support.
The legislation here represents the most aggressive attack on it, in my memory, in 15 years in Congress. My amendment, at least, would clarify this particular item.
I urge its adoption.
I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. GIBBS. Mr. Chairman, I must strongly oppose this amendment because it basically aims to gut the underlying bill.
This amendment is designed to ensure that the EPA can continue to unilaterally force its own one-size-fits-all [Page: H4985]
Federal policies onto the States' water quality programs.
The underlying bill, H.R. 2018, reestablishes the States' balanced role in carrying out the provisions of the Clean Water Act; but this amendment, in effect, says that the underlying bill will not apply virtually anywhere the Clean Water Act applies.
Implicitly, this amendment also says that the States cannot be trusted in protecting the quality of their waters and the health of their citizens, and the Federal Government knows best.
Once States have approved clean water programs, they are capable of administering their programs and caring for the welfare of their citizens. EPA needs to be more respectful of the decisions made by the States in those circumstances.
H.R. 2018 is a good bill that restores balance to an out-of-control U.S. EPA. The intent of this amendment is to make the bill completely unworkable. I would also add that I think that the Clean Water Act has worked until now when the States have been usurped of their authority and ability to enforce the State and Federal EPA environmental laws.
I urge all Members to oppose this amendment.
I reserve the balance of my time.
The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman from Oregon has 2 minutes remaining.
Mr. BLUMENAUER. Mr. Chairman, I would yield 1 minute to my friend and colleague from Oregon (Mr. DeFazio), a gentleman who deeply understands the importance of this amendment.
Mr. DeFAZIO. Well, the gentleman that just preceded me said this would gut this bill. He is right, it would gut this bill which deserves to be gutted.
This bill would take us back to pre-Clean Water Act standards. He says, oh, the States, if they have standards, shouldn't be bothered by the EPA. Well, this bill says if a State has adopted standards on paper, but they choose not to enforce them and they are out of compliance, the EPA can take no action.
It further says that if we discover a new harmful pollutant, as we did recently when we upgraded the standards for arsenic, most of us don't want our kids drinking arsenic in the water. The EPA cannot enforce new national standards if we discover a new dangerous pollutant unless the State agrees. It's optional; it's up to the State.
And then, of course, if you happen to be a State downstream from a State that is choosing to kind of stick it to its own people by not adopting the highest standards, or not even enforcing their existing standards, you are downstream, you don't have any choice. You have no recourse.
This bill is absurd in terms of the fact that it is just designed to totally gut the Clean Water Act and turn back the clock to the good old days when we had rivers that burned.
Mr. BLUMENAUER. I yield the balance of my time to the distinguished gentleman from Long Island, New York (Mr. Bishop), who has some experience with problems of water pollution and erosion.
The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman from New York is recognized for 1 minute.
Mr. BISHOP of New York. I thank the gentleman for yielding, and I thank the gentleman for offering this amendment, along with Mr. Markey and Mr. DeFazio.
Mr. Chairman, if H.R. 2018 were enacted as drafted, it would restrict the EPA's ability to protect the Nation's waters from pollution. As we know, if pollution is allowed to increase due to the dueling interests of States, many sources of clean drinking water would be imperiled, valuable fish and wildlife habitat would be endangered and coastal recreational waters, like the shores of my Long Island, would be at risk, along with all the economic benefits these resources provide.
The Markey-DeFazio-Blumenauer amendment simply restricts the provisions of this bill from endangering waters that provide flood protection for communities, our valuable fish and wildlife habitat or our coastal recreational waters that are the backbone of my district's economy. In fact, my district will face real economic danger if this bill is not amended, not to mention the environmental danger that my district and districts all over this country will face.
I strongly urge my colleagues to support this amendment.
Mr. CARNAHAN. Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.
The Acting CHAIR. The question is on the amendment offered by the gentleman from Missouri (Mr. Carnahan).
The question was taken; and the Acting Chair announced that the noes appeared to have it.
Mr. GIBBS. Mr. Chairman, I ask for a recorded vote.
The CHAIR. Pursuant to clause 6 of rule XVIII, further proceedings on the amendment offered by the gentleman from Colorado will be postponed.
AMENDMENT NO. 6 OFFERED BY MR.
The CHAIR. It is now in order to consider amendment No. 6 printed in House Report 112-144.