House approves rule for bill limiting EPA's authority over states

During brief debate on the rule, Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) said the EPA has evolved into an agency that ignores the system of "cooperative federalism" that was originally intended in the Clean Water Act. He and others contend that the EPA completely undermines state governments and local companies with arbitrary rules that continue to hurt economic growth in the U.S.

"The EPA's actions have pulled the rug out from under the states in an very capricious, in an extremely arrogant manner, have created an atmosphere of regulatory uncertainty for businesses, for local governments, which now have to plan and rely on clean water permits as they think they might be used in the future," Bishop said. "This new uncertainty has nothing less than an extremely negative impact on businesses both large and small."

As expected, Democrats disagreed, and said the bill would undermine the EPA's ability to enforce uniform clean water standards across the country. Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) said the bill ignores the "interstate nature" of pollution, since giving states too much authority over standards could lead to pollution that crosses state lines.

"Maintaining the federal government's basic structure, the Clean Water Act, ensures that each state meets the basic safety standards in their own way, giving them flexibility, but it's a critical application of federal authority with regard to interstate commerce and interstate activities," Polis said.

Specifically, the bill would prevent the EPA from issuing new water-quality standards for a state for a given pollutant if the EPA has approved a state water-quality standard for the pollutant, unless the state agrees with the EPA.

It also says the EPA cannot supersede a state's determination that a discharge into the environment will comply with applicable environmental standards. If the EPA has approved a state program under the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System, the EPA cannot withdraw this approval simply because it and the state disagree.

Also under the bill, the EPA could not block states from listing an area as a disposal site if the state sees it as an appropriate site.

After approval of the rule, the House began debate on the bill and was expected to take up 10 amendments that the rule makes in order.

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