Vice-presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan recently gave an interview with Outdoor Life and proclaimed that – as an avid hunter – he supported conservation efforts for wetlands. He even said nice things about the Clean Water Act’s requirements pertaining to the destruction of wetlands and other waters. Rep. Ryan said: “The Clean Water Act has been helpful too, in making sure that wetlands are protected so that there’s more than a one-for-one replacement in some instances.” That’s a heartwarming sentiment to hear from a candidate in the middle of a national election, especially since this week is the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act’s adoption.
Given his apparent understanding of the importance of wetlands in the aquatic ecosystem, one might expect that Rep. Ryan’s voting record would reflect a commitment to protecting these essential resources. Think again. In just the last two years, Rep. Ryan has rarely missed an opportunity to undermine protections for wetlands and other vulnerable waters. His record looks less like it belongs to someone who cares about water bodies and more like those of some of his House colleagues, who deride efforts to protect wetlands and small streams as seeking to “extend the government’s regulatory reach to every ditch, puddle and pond in the country.”
Let’s go to the scoreboard, shall we?
H.R. 1 – During the consideration of a bill to fund the government’s operation, Rep. Ryan voted against protection of critical waters a number of times.
- Rep. Ryan voted for an amendment from Rep. Griffith shielding mountaintop removal coal mining operations from effective EPA review. The amendment thus would’ve made it easier to destroy water bodies through radical strip mining.
- Rep. Ryan voted for an amendment from Rep McKinley to prohibit EPA from using its CWA authority to “veto” dumping projects that impact waters – including wetlands — that would have an “unacceptable adverse effect” on our water, fish or wildlife. EPA has used this authority sparingly – only 13 times since the law was enacted in 1972. In other words, it is reserved for truly bad projects where the discharger can’t or won’t curtail the impacts to water resources.
- Rep. Ryan also voted for final passage of the bill, which contained a section that would halt ongoing EPA/Corps work to clarify which waters, including wetlands, remain protected by the Clean Water Act in the wake of confusing court decisions and irresponsible policies adopted by the Bush administration.
H.R. 10 (“Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act”) – Rep. Ryan voted for a bill that would effectively shut down the government’s ability to implement many health, safety, and environmental regulations called for by federal law, if even a bare majority of either house of Congress refused to approve of such rules.
H.R. 2354 – In considering another spending bill, one that funds the operations of the Army Corps of Engineers, Rep. Ryan voted against an amendment from Rep. Moran to strike language that would prohibit the Corps from restoring clear protections under the Clean Water Act to headwater streams and wetlands.
H.R. 2584 – During House consideration of a spending bill to fund a variety of environmental programs, Rep. Ryan voted in favor of an amendment that would’ve slashed overall funding by 10%. Worse, the amendment would’ve cut funding for EPA’s program management, which supports its work to protect wetlands, by 36%.
H.R. 2018 – Rep. Ryan voted for the misleadingly-named “Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act of 2011,” a bill that the White House accurately said “would roll back the key provisions of the CWA that have been the underpinning of 40 years of progress in making the Nation’s waters fishable, swimmable, and drinkable.”
H.R. 3010 (“Regulatory Accountability Act”) – Rep. Ryan voted for a bill that would mandate new and unnecessary administrative hurdles to regulatory safeguards, and that would impose rules of decision that will often favor doing nothing over protecting the public.
H.R. 5325 – Rep. Ryan voted against an amendment from Reps. Moran and Dingell to a spending bill that included the Army Corps of Engineers, which would have enabled experts at the Corps to continue to work with the Environmental Protection Agency to better protect tributary streams and wetlands based on scientific evidence of those waters’ importance.
If that’s what Rep. Ryan does for a program he thinks is “helpful” and for resources he thinks are important, just think what he’d do for public health and environmental safeguards he doesn’t like.