2017 Federal Legislation & the Environment: What You Need to Know

Bad Bill Tracking

A little over a week past, President Trump signed an executive order setting up “regulatory reform officers” and “task forces” within the agencies to help carry out the destruction of regulations. Stopping regulatory “overreach” is one thing, but destroying agencies and regulations that, for example, ensure the tap water your children drink doesn’t contain pollutants that cause cancer or brain damage, is outrageous and immoral.

Here are some legislative updates on bills that could negatively affect healthy rivers and strong communities in Montana:

  • There are several very concerning bills targeting clean water introduced in the House. We are working with partner groups to monitor these bills closely and craft an effective strategy to advocate against them.
    • H.R. 1179 – Called the “Discouraging Frivolous Lawsuits Act,” this bill would make it so that groups that bring lawsuits under the Clean Water Act and do not prevail are required to pay the other side’s legal fees. This would significantly hamper the ability of public interest groups like ours to bring citizen suits.
    • H.R. 465 – The deceptively named “Water Quality Improvement Act of 2017” allows municipalities to take costs into account when deciding how to address their obligations to control wastewater and stormwater pollution.
    • HR 1261 was introduced in the House this week. This bill would severely limit the waters that the Clean Water Act applies to; it would amend the Clean Water Act to say it applies only to waters that are navigable-in-fact, or waters that have a permanent or continuous surface water connection to navigable-in-fact waters. Since this would alter the language of the Clean Water Act itself, it poses an even greater threat than a new rulemaking on WOTUS.
  • Updates on other concerning bills
    • H.R. 953 – Would allow pesticides to be discharged into waterways without a permit. It has passed the House Committee on Agriculture, which means it could be coming up for a vote in the House soon. The Center for Biological Diversity wrote an article explaining the potential implications of this.
    • H.R. 637, called the “Stopping EPA Overreach Act of 2017” has gained 120 Republican Co-sponsors. This bill revises the Clean Air Act to state that greenhouse gases are not air pollutants and cannot be regulated by EPA. It also includes a ludicrous provision that says anytime EPA wants to issue a regulation that might negatively impact employment, the regulation must be approved by Congress and signed by the President. Note: while regulations sometimes decrease jobs in one industry, they also create new jobs in others, and “only about two tenths of one percent of layoffs are caused by government regulations of any kind, including environmental regulations.”

Certain legislators have also been making it clear that they want to target the Endangered Species Act, with bills introduced in both the House and SenateH.R. 717 would amend the Endangered Species Act to require government agencies to consider the economic costs tied to listing a species as threatened and would get rid of the requirement for the government to respond to listing petitions within a certain timeframe. S. 375 makes it more difficult to ensure species are considered for protection in a timely fashion.

Bills were also introduced to weaken rules intended to prevent overfishing in the ocean, and to delay the implementation of ozone regulations under the Clean Air Act. Another bill to limit the ability of the EPA to regulate greenhouse gases was introduced.

There is a good chance that the Senate will be voting on at least one Congressional Review Act bill targeting public lands regulations. One bill is be aimed at getting rid of regulations that gave Americans more of a chance to participate in public land use planning, and the other targets the “methane rule,” which Waterkeeper Alliance wrote a blog post on.

As regards ongoing proposals to sell off our public lands, we are very concerned because over 1/4 of the Upper Missouri River Basin is, in fact, federally-managed public lands. Further, these areas comprise critical headwaters of our major watersheds like the Gallatin, Madison, Big Hole, Dearborn, and Smith! Reducing oversight, removing clean water protections, and/or allowing industrial development in headwaters will all create incredibly negative, significant, and far-reaching impacts on Montana’s rivers and the valuable outdoors-based economy they support.

While it is not clear which public lands sale bill will be voted on, now is the time to call our Senators. Public lands belong to all of us, and we expect the federal government to manage them in a way that puts our health and environment above the interest of the fossil fuel industry. In Montana, Senator’s Tester and Daines should now that H.J. Res. 44 and H.J 36 are NOT in the best interests of Montana or its rivers.  Contact information for our Senators can be found here.

We need your help to continue fighting back.

The water we drink, fish, and use is essential to our health and Montana’s way of life. No family should have to worry about safety when they turn on the tap, and no Montana river should run green with algal blooms.

Upper Missouri Waterkeeper needs folks who care about clean water and healthy Montana rivers to join us in protecting our waterways for today’s families and future generations – we can’t put up a fight without your help.  We must stand up for our rivers, now.

Your gift today will help Upper Missouri Waterkeeper fight efforts to destroy longstanding clean water protections, and to fight for our local rivers. We were founded to ensure that laws are enforced and health of communities are protected. We will not back down to industry and political pressures, and will not sit idly by while polluters attempt to water down pollution controls.

Working together we can speak with one powerful voice and act as one powerful force. Please help us fight for clean, safe water in Montana. Take action now. Join us today.