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« Intense Debate Between Greens on Climate Change Bill | Main | CSI Chesapeake Bay: Case of the Gender-Bending Bass »

05/26/2009

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"But still missing is any kind of enforcement mechanism, with specific penalties for the states if they fail to follow through with their promises."

?????

There actually has been, and continues to be, an enforcement mechanism in the Clean Water Act, providing specific civil and criminal penalties, as well as administrative orders, at the instance of EPA and another provision for suits by private plaintiffs against the EPA for failure to take any action other than a "discretionary" action. CBF has made increasing use of such litigation in recent times, I believe.

One big problem was, however, that so long as EPA was allowed to get away with the approach of the Reagan-era "voluntary" Chesapeake Bay Program, there were no "non-discretionary" acts to sue over. It's hard to allege that someone has violated a "voluntary" so-called "commitment."

The Obama Executive Order does away with that futile approach. It is true, as Tom states in his article, that the states' coalition has been preserved -- but only (let's hope) in name only. The power of the coalition has now been effectively transferred and, as Tom notes, this is a significant and "praiseworthy" development. It is telling, moreover, that no protests were registered by the various states over this action. Indeed, the states were pretty much requesting it, conceding the failure of the 26 years of the Chesapeake Bay Program coalition.

Southriver raises an excellent point that the EPA has always had an enforcement mechanism for water pollution in general -- the federal Clean Water Act.

Now the key will be for the EPA to start using this law to hold states accountable and make them keep their promises.

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