When drafting the Clean Water Act in 1972, legislators set the goals of making all U.S. waterways fishable and swimmable by 1983 and eliminating the discharge of pollutants into the nation’s waterways by 1985. More than 30 years later, we are far from realizing the Clean Water Act’s original vision.
Using information provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, this report analyzes all major facilities violating their Clean Water Act permits between July 1, 2003 and December 31, 2004, reveals the type of pollutants they are discharging into our waterways, and details the extent to which these facilities are exceeding their permit levels.
More than two decades after the drafters of the Clean Water Act hoped that all waterways would be pollution-free, we find that facilities across the country continue to discharge more pollution into our waterways than allowed under the law.
In the American West, no other effect of climate disruption is as significant as how it endangers the region’s already scarce snowpacks and water supply. With the inherent vulnerability of the dry West to even small changes in the snow-water cycle, these risks alone present ample reason for Westerners to take action to protect this special region.
Rising oil prices are pinching the American economy. And, if many oil industry analysts are correct, prices won’t be coming back down any time soon. Indeed, it appears that the era of “cheap oil” may well be over.
In December 2003, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) launched a year-long, comprehensive review of its enforcement program and practices. The review comes after a string of reports by state and federal auditors, non-profits and academics that document that the agency’s “enforcement process does not consistently ensure that violators are held accountable”.
These studies detail the vast majority of illegal polluters who escape any kind of punishment, the many large polluting facilities which go years without inspections, and the lack of sufficient resources and political will to enforce the law aggressively and provide a credible deterrent against illegal pollution.
Water scarcity is a worldwide issue and will affect an increasing number of people as the world population grows from the current 6 billion to 9 billion by mid-century. U.N. studies indicate that 2.7 billion people will face severe water shortages by 2025 if consumption continues at current rates. Not only sheer population growth but also urbanization will strain water resources. While historically more people have lived in the countryside than cities, that trend has been changing, and by 2020, urban dwellers will outnumber their rural counterparts. As a result of this population density, municipalities will have increasing difficulty providing sufficient amounts of water to their residents.
Environment Texas Research and Policy Center is part of The Public Interest Network, which operates and supports organizations committed to a shared vision of a better world and a strategic approach to getting things done.