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Luana Conley
October 18th, 2012

Marking the 40th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act By Protecting It

Pollution TradingStatement from Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter

Washington, D.C.—“Today, clean water advocates are marking the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, a critical piece of legislation Congress created to protect our public waterways from industrial and chemical pollution. While the Clean Water Act is supposed to help the nation achieve the ultimate goal of completely eliminating all pollution into public waterways, it is currently being undermined by the same financial interests responsible for the housing crisis. As we celebrate 40 years of the Clean Water Act, we are simultaneously defending it from the biggest attack in its 40-year history.

“Throughout the country, new financial models are being touted as solutions to man-made problems, including industrial pollution. Wall Street hedge funds, whose irresponsible and unchecked actions were responsible for the collapse of the financial market, have now created broker-driven deals, encouraging companies to amass pollution credits and essentially creating a marketplace for trading the “right” to pollute in our public waterways.

“In the largest watershed on the Atlantic seaboard, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has introduced pollution trading provisions as part of the Chesapeake Total Maximum Daily Load or TMDL. These provisions allow financial middlemen to identify and purchase nitrogen and phosphorus “credits” from industrial agriculture operations in the watershed that pledge to improve pollution reduction in the future. The credits they amass are unverifiable, but they are aggregated, bundled together, and sold to power plants, wastewater treatment plants and other “point source” polluters who are either unable or simply unwilling to meet their CWA permit limits.

“This ’pay-to-pollute’ trading program is in direct conflict with the already proven regulations of the Clean Water Act that are merely not being enforced. To combat the EPA’s TMDL program, Food & Water Watch and Friends of the Earth filed a lawsuit against the EPA, contesting the pollution trading provisions as illegal according to the Clean Water Act.

“By allowing pollution to continue through a market-based system of trading and profiting, these provisions are in direct conflict with the basic tenants of the Clean Water Act, as well as a violation of the public trust doctrine upon which the Act is based.”

Contact: Rich Bindell, Food & Water Watch, 202-683-2457

Food & Water Watch works to ensure the food, water and fish we consume is safe, accessible and sustainable. So we can all enjoy and trust in what we eat and drink, we help people take charge of where their food comes from, keep clean, affordable, public tap water flowing freely to our homes, protect the environmental quality of oceans, force government to do its job protecting citizens, and educate about the importance of keeping shared resources under public control.