Democratic News

Feb 02 2017

Cantwell Fights to Defend Stream Protection Rule

Cantwell: I hope people aren't advocating for pollution as an economic solution, because it won’t work.

Washington, D.C. – Today, Ranking Member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) defended the Stream Protection Rule from being repealed via the Congressional Review Act. This rule protects communities whose water is endangered by pollution from coal mining.

Released in December 2016, the rule established a long-overdue monitoring requirement for water pollution and prevented dewatering of streams. Toxic pollutants including lead, arsenic and selenium (known to cause birth defects and other severe human health impacts) are addressed under the rule.

This administration is starting a War on Clean Water,” Sen. Cantwell said. “Why would you want to exempt anybody from cleaning up their mess? Polluters should pay.”

Some have accused the rule of killing jobs, but the Stream Protection Rule actually protects jobs in the outdoor economy. “The outdoor economy supplies 6.1 million direct jobs in the United States. When you don’t regulate the [mining] industry and make sure they are cleaning up their mess, you are hurting the 6.1 million jobs that depend on having clean streams. The outdoor economy is just as important, is actually producing more jobs and is producing more revenue.”

She argued that reversing this regulation isn’t good for jobs or for the economy: “I hope people aren't advocating for pollution as an economic solution, because it won’t work.”

Noting that the law hadn’t been updated on this issue in 33 years, Sen. Cantwell mentioned that “we now have better technology, we have more information about selenium and we know that it impacts fish. We want mining companies to make sure they are doing something to minimize the impacts of selenium.”

The Editorial Board of the Washington Post also urged updating regulations: “The emerging science should cut through the rhetoric. The EPA is right to move more firmly to protect health and environment.”

Prior to today, the Congressional Review Act has only been used successfully one other time, during the George W. Bush administration. Use of the Congressional Review Act is significant because it blocks an agency from issuing any “new rule that is substantially the same” in the future without new authorizing legislation from Congress.

Given the working majorities in both chambers of Congress, Sen. Cantwell urged Republicans not to use this aggressive tactic: “You could come here and propose legislation. You could ask your colleagues to … move forward on an alternative, but that’s not happening. Turning down this rule, this way will stop an agency from doing the job they are supposed to do.”

Sen. Cantwell lamented that this is just the beginning: “There are going to be many attempts by this administration to harm clean water protections. Trump: 1, Clean Water: 0.

Unfortunately, the Senate voted 54-45 to repeal the rule and prevent substantially-similar regulations from being issued by the executive branch in the future.