Congress Debates Debt, Attacks Clean Water Act

I'm beginning to wonder if there is any hope for political leadership in our country.

Pennwell web 90 128

I’m beginning to wonder if there is any hope for political leadership in our country. As I write this column in mid-July the debate is raging over extending the U.S. debt ceiling, with no resolution in sight. At the same time, the House just passed legislation that would give states the authority to set their own clean water standards, limiting the power that the Environmental Protection Agency has over states under the Clean Water Act.

The debt ceiling debate is split along party lines and everyone involved seems solely focused on advancing their own agenda with little regard for what’s best for the country. In the same manner, I view the Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act, H.R. 2018, as being driven by narrow economic interests with no regard for what’s best for the water and environment of the United States as a whole.

By the time you read this column, the debt ceiling debate will have been resolved in some manner. Everyone will have given lip service to funding cuts and increased taxes may or may not be included. Either way, I expect nothing substantial to come of the discussion. I see it all as mere political theater – with each side performing for the cameras with the single goal of gaining a political advantage.

I expect H.R. 2018 will be stuck in Senate limbo and will never see the light of day. Again, in my opinion the primary goal of the measure is to gain political advantage – look good for the voters back home and not actually change the law.

The bill is sponsored by Reps. John Mica (R-FL) and Nick Rahall (D-WVa), both of whom were motivated by industries in their home states. The EPA is trying to limit agricultural runoff in Florida, and has blocked mountain top mining in West Virginia.

The bill asserts that states should have the primary responsibility for regulation of water resources within their borders, not the EPA. Passage of the bill is an attempt by Congress to reopen the permitting process for multiple industries that have been stuck in an EPA-imposed moratorium on state approved permits.

While mountain top mining might bring a major boost to the West Virginia economy, it could have a very negative impact on down-stream states. It’s not a question about what’s best for West Virginia or Florida or any other state, it’s about what’s best for the country.

The same is true with the national debt. We must come to grips with our national addiction to government spending. I personally don’t know how to solve that problem. But from what I’ve seen over the past few months, neither does our country’s leadership. And I find that very scary.

Pennwell web 90 128James Laughlin, Editor

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