Kentucky Senator Rand Paul has introduced three amendments to a bill before the Senate that environmental groups say would gut protections for the environment.
Rand Paul and West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin introduced the amendments to the Water Resources Development Act, which authorizes flood protection measures and infrastructure improvements. One of the amendments would take away the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to veto permits issued by the Army Corps of Engineers for mountaintop removal mines. Another would prohibit the federal government from revising pollution standards, unless an individual state agrees to the revision.
Sierra Club spokesman Sean Sarah says the passage of these amendments would amount to a gutting of the Clean Water Act.
“To remove these sorts of protections means that one of the things that Americans rely on the most, which is clean water, we can no longer think of it as safe as it once was,” he said.
The third amendment addresses the definition of “navigable waters,” which is something Paul has repeatedly sought to change through legislation. Under federal law, a mining company needs a permit before it can discharge soil or waste into navigable waters; Paul argues many Appalachian streams shouldn’t fall under that definition because they’re ephemeral, and might not exist during dry spells.
That amendment is echoed in a separate piece of legislation. Earlier this week, Paul re-introduced the Defense of Environment and Property Act. In a statement, the senator said the bill would bring “common sense” back to federal environmental policies.
“Environmental protection must be balanced with the constitutional right to private property,” he said. “I have spoken with several Americans who have fallen victim to the EPA and Army Corps’ aggressive breach of power. This act will restore common sense to the federal jurisdiction over navigable waters, place necessary limitations on out-of-control government agencies and protect our right to private property.”