The Clean Water Blog

What a Surprise: The Dirty Water Caucus is at it Again

By Lynn Thorp, National Campaigns Director - Follow Lynn on Twitter (@LTCWA)

As the U.S. House of Representatives takes up spending bills for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and

Department of Interior (DOI) funding today and tomorrow, I’m thinking of two simple yet astute questions posed by my colleagues this week.

Has the Congressional process around federal spending bills always been like this?

“It feels like it,” I told our Oil and Gas Campaigns Coordinator John Noel. “But I don’t think so.” The basic business of passing spending bills to fund the federal government’s activity has become a perpetual motion machine of anti-government rhetoric. It’s gotten so bad that individual appropriations bills often never happen and the federal government is funded through a series of “continuing resolutions” just to keep things going. There has always been debate, and compromise, and that’s how the system is supposed to work. During the last several Congresses in particular, we have seen the appropriations process turn into squabble over all the work that the American people think the government ought to be doing. For example, polling shows continuing strong public support for protecting water resources. That hasn’t stopped opponents of the recent EPA/Army Corps of Engineers “Clean Water Rule” from inserting language in this spending bill to protections for drinking water sources and other water bodies.

What do we do about the fact that people think our society has already committed to basic clean water protections?

Sounds like a simple enough question from our Water Programs Director Jennifer Peters, but it gets at the challenges inherent in mobilizing people around problems they thought were basically solved. We’re over forty years in to implementation of what were considered (deservedly) landmark water laws. The Clean Water Act passed in 1972 and the Safe Drinking Water Act in 1974. Why wouldn’t the American people think that we’ve made a bi-partisan national “handshake” on keeping our water clean and our drinking water sources protected. It’s only common sense right? And yet, this evening U.S. House of Representatives leadership will convene yet another in an ongoing series of attacks on fundamental water protections. While they’re at it, they’ll go after dozens of other EPA programs in a bill that cuts the Agency’s budget by 9%. In case you’re concerned about public lands and wildlife, critical Department of Interior functions are on the chopping block too. These are not debates on the margins. The attacks on clean air, clean water, public lands and wildlife are so fundamental that the Executive Office of the President has issued an extremely strong veto threat on this spending bill. These are jobs people expect the federal government to do, yet the U.S. House majority has put them under existential threat. It’s hard to hear that if you presume that federal agencies are there to “keep the water clean.”

Learn more by following #GreenUpCongress on Twitter this week. You can follow us at @CleanH2OAction.

Jennifer Peters, John Noel and other Clean Water Action staff also post here at our We All Live Downstream blog.