Sarbanes Amendment Protects Essential Waterbodies, Including the Chesapeake Bay
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman John Sarbanes (D-Md.) today spoke on the House Floor in opposition to the “Polluters Over People” Act, legislation that would undermine clean water protections and restrict states’ ability to regulate pollution in their waterbodies, including in the Chesapeake Bay.
The “Polluters Over People” Act (H.R. 1) weakens enforcement of many bedrock environmental and public health laws by shortening the statute of limitations for unlawful permit decisions and blocking lawsuits from Americans who did not submit public comments within a limited window of time. In a direct threat to our environment, public health, ecosystems and economy, this legislation also undermines portions of the Clean Water Act by hampering states’ authority to control pollution discharges in their waters and narrowing the conditions and limitations they can place on clean water certifications.
Congressman Sarbanes’ amendment, which House Republicans declined to allow House consideration of, would have clarified that H.R. 1 would not hinder states’ abilities to reduce pollution discharges in accordance with Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs), thereby safeguarding the health and recovery of waters that are impaired by pollution.
H.R. 1 also erodes the chemical review process and allows new chemicals – even PFAS, which have been detected in the Chesapeake Bay – on the market without critical safety protocols. Congressman Sarbanes has long worked to address the dangers of certain PFAS chemicals and strengthen the chemical review process to protect the health of all communities.
“To protect our environment and public health, states need to have the authority and tools to regulate pollution in their waters,” said Congressman Sarbanes. “But one section of this bill would narrow states’ ability to regulate nonpoint source and ongoing discharges that impact downstream water quality. This bill would also restrict the conditions and limitations that a state could place on clean water certification, further hampering a state’s means of protecting its waters.”
He continued, “That is why I filed an amendment with Congressman Bobby Scott to ensure that this energy bill would not impact a state’s authority to establish or implement a state approved TMDL for an impaired waterway. Unfortunately, the Republicans did not allow for this amendment to be offered on the Floor today. So, as this bill strips away environmental and public health protections across the board, we don’t even have the most basic assurances that states will be able to design and execute their own plans to reduce waterway pollution.”
Finally, he concluded, “For the Chesapeake Bay, this could be disastrous. The TMDLs are the guides by which the seven watershed jurisdictions work with EPA to continue making progress on the larger Chesapeake Bay Agreement. It’s gross negligence as a matter of legislation to roll back these key protections for these bodies of water, but tragically, rolling back these protections is the chief goal of this bill – that’s what it’s all about. For that reason, I encourage all my colleagues to oppose it.”
See below for a full video of the Congressman’s remarks on the House Floor.