Federal Regulation Of Water Quality In The United States

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As environment pollution levels continue to rise, the issues of water quality have become increasingly important and the United States government has put forth several acts in order to maintain safe water for the nation. The primary federal law regulating water pollution in the United States is the Clean Water Act, which was enacted in 1948 and is intended to maintain the chemical and biological quality of US’s waters through various amendments including pollution control programs, maintenance of water quality standards, and improvement of wastewater treatment, among others. The main federal law ensuring quality of drinking water is the Safe Drinking Water Act, passed in 1974 and which authorizes the US Environmental Protection Agency to impose…show more content…
However, the act was poorly designed and initially was largely ineffective. It did not provide enough authority to the federal government nor did it generally prohibit pollution; furthermore, it maintained an “extremely cumbersome enforcement mechanism.” Because the original act was largely ineffective, the Federal Water Pollution Control Act was amended six times and eventually rewritten entirely into the 1972 Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments, better known as the Clean Water Act. The 1972 amendments authorized the basic structure for regulation of pollutant discharges and gave the EPA authority to enforce pollution control programs. Even still, there remain discrepancies in the revised act; for example, though the act claims to cover all waters with a “significant nexus” to “navigable waters”. These phrases are rather broad and open to judicial interpretation, consequently leading to substantial controversy. Despite the revisions, the oil and gas industry is still exempt from governance, as seen in its exclusion from the regulation of pollutant discharge into US waters. In addition to the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act was enacted in 1974 to regulate the US’s public drinking water and serves as the main federal law regarding drinking water quality. However, the oil and gas industry is exempt from this act as…show more content…
Among these are the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976. The oil and gas industry also evades the National Environmental Policy Act by means of the Energy Policy Act, and is not required to conduct environmental impact statements. The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act typically tracks industrial wastes; however, it excludes the oil and gas industry by disregarding on-site or transported waste water as hazardous, thus absolving the industry from such tracking. Along with these acts, the industry is excluded from the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act of 1986 and is not required to report toxic chemicals, along with the 1980 Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, in exemption from cleaning up releases of hazardous substances into the environment. However, the oil and gas industry is marginally regulated by the EPA’s Underground Injection Control Program, though only if diesel fuel is used in the fracturing process. The Underground Injection Control requires that companies obtain permits from the EPA when using diesel fuel. However, the EPA defines only five different chemical variations as diesel, thus omitting many potential variants. A 2011 study by House Democrats showed

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