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Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott speaks during an anti-abortion rally at the State Capitol in Austin, Texas, July 8, 2013.  The political battle in Texas over proposed restrictions on abortion resumes on Monday with a rally by abortion opponents and a p
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott loves to brag about how many times
he has sued the Environmental Protection Agency. Clean air and clean water just aren't his thing.
Last year, shortly before Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott announced he was running for governor, the Republican bragged at a meeting of the national tea party group FreedomWorks about his typical day: "I go into the office, I sue the federal government and I go home." That may have gotten him some laughs, but he wasn't kidding. Abbott has sued the Obama administration at least 31 times, including the Environmental Protection Agency 17 times.

While he hasn't yet sued over the issue, Abbott is in yet another tangle with the EPA that could lead to a lawsuit. This time it's over the EPA's proposed Waters of the United States rule under the Clean Water Act. The proposed rule has a ways to go before it is finalized. The public comment period continues until October. On Monday, Abbott sent a letter to the EPA on the matter. An excerpt:

“[T]he proposed rule … would erode private property rights and have devastating effects on the landowners of Texas.”

“Under this proposed definition, it is difficult to envision any lands—especially those that lie near the coast—that are not potentially within the ambit of federal jurisdiction. This broad and overreaching definition would impose virtually no limit on federal jurisdiction …”

“Perhaps more troubling…is the federal agencies’ explicit inclusion of ‘ditches’ as ‘waters of the United States.’ Under this untenable and legally baseless definition, any landowner who has a ditch on his or her private property is at risk of having the federal government exert regulation over that ditch and impose burdensome and expensive federal regulations over dry land that does not remotely resemble any common-sense understanding of ‘waters of the United States.’

"Over-reaching" is far from how EPA administrator Gina McCarthy views the rule, which was developed by the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers. She says the rule will clarify what is now confusing and will not "expand the scope of waters historically protected under the Clean Water Act." For example, ditches would be less regulated than they are now, according to the EPA website, because those dug through dry land that don't have water in them year round are specifically excluded from the rule.

There is more below the fold.

In a op-ed published when the proposed rule was announced in March, McCarthy wrote:

The law didn't just defend the mighty Mississippi or our Great Lakes; it also protected the smaller streams and wetlands that weave together a vast, interconnected system. It recognized the dangers of dumping toxic pollution upstream, because healthy downstream lakes and rivers are beholden to the streams and wetlands that feed them.

Incredibly, one in three Americans -- more than 117 million people -- get their drinking water from these types of streams and headwaters. [...]

Without Clean Water Act protections -- there's often nothing stopping sewage, toxic chemicals, or some other worst-case water scenario from threatening our health and livelihoods. Unfortunately, over the last decade, the Clean Water Act has been bogged down by confusion. Two complex court decisions narrowed legal protections and muddled everyone's understanding of what waters are -- or are not -- covered under the law. Protections have been especially confusing for those smaller, vital interconnected streams and wetlands.

While Abbott likes to brag about how many times he's sued the administration, he doesn't like to talk about how many cases he's lost. That would be more than three-fourths of them, at tremendous expense to Texas taxpayers. Marcelo Norsworthy at Texas Clean Air Matters takes note of several, including:
One crusade began in 2010 when Abbott and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), the state’s environmental protection agency, refused to issue greenhouse gas permits to industrial facilities in the state, effectively leaving Texas industry with their hands tied. Without a path forward, EPA began issuing permits through a Federal Implementation Plan. In the end, it was industry that spoke up and complained to TCEQ that the situation created by Abbott’s hardheaded stance placed the state at a competitive disadvantage. As of 2014, TCEQ begrudgingly began issuing permits.

The State of Texas not only impeded businesses by refusing to issue the necessary permits, but also sued EPA arguing that the Agency lacked authority to regulate greenhouse gases and administer the permitting program. Dealing a blow to Abbott, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit sided with EPA.

As Ari Phillips at Think Progress notes, whether it's mandating clean air or clean water, Abbott could be expected follow in the footsteps of Gov. Rick Perry if he wins the governorship in his hotly contested race against Democrat Wendy Davis.  

Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Wed Aug 13, 2014 at 10:17 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  protecting the waters is EPAs job (5+ / 0-)

    along with the land and air. frankly we should have a department of Conservation, we have departments for everything else, except that. abbott can bloviate all he wants, but this is pretty settled law.

    •  we used to have a COnservation dept (0+ / 0-)

      then it got turned into Interior.

      James Watt ran that awhile under one of the Gee O Pee idiot princes when I was young.

      LBJ, Van Cliburn, Ike, Wendy Davis, Lady Bird, Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan, Molly Ivins, Sully Sullenburger, Drew Brees: Texas is NO Bush League!

      by BlackSheep1 on Wed Aug 13, 2014 at 04:43:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  no, there has never been a Conservation Department (0+ / 0-)

        the department has always been called Interior. FDR proposed a Conservation Department by Merging the Park Service and Forest Service but that was rejected by Congress. A Modern Conservation Department should consist of the Following:
         BLM, CCC, EPA, FWS, NFS and NPS, with a total budget of 120 billion. thats a fifth of the defense budget in case you are wondering, and about six times what the current agencies get combined. that comes to 20 billion per agency, including a revived and permanent CCC.

  •  There are too many voters who have no memory (18+ / 0-)

    of how bad our pollution was and big business is using that to get their mouth pieces and bought politicians to destroy these regulations. I think we need a major ad campaign that shows what it was like in the 50's, 60's, 70's and 80's.

    Show people what it was like in Los Angeles when you couldn't see 100 yards through the smog and ask them if they want to go back to that. Show them the toxic dump sites that were everywhere and the chemical plants that spewed poison into the air.

    They have been extremely successful at portraying regulations as some sort of over reach that saves butterflies while taking away people's right to build a fence. We need to show people what the EPA has really done.

    Most of the people taking a hard line against us are firmly convinced that they are the last defenders of civilization... The last stronghold of mother, God, home and apple pie and they're full of shit! David Crosby, Journey Thru the Past.

    by Mike S on Wed Aug 13, 2014 at 10:56:02 AM PDT

  •  I thought Abbott was the straight man, and (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ichibon

    Costello was the one who said all the stupid stuff.

    If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when? Rabbi Hillel the Elder, Ethics of the Fathers. Corporadeus

    by Floyd Blue on Wed Aug 13, 2014 at 11:19:14 AM PDT

  •  Neither air nor water respect boundaries (7+ / 0-)

    They both have a habit of crossing over state lines and affecting other jurisdictions.

    “Texas is a so-called red state, but you’ve got 10 million Democrats here in Texas. And …, there are a whole lot of people here in Texas who need us, and who need us to fight for them.” President Obama

    by Catte Nappe on Wed Aug 13, 2014 at 11:27:23 AM PDT

  •  Thanks for writing about how Abbott's (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Meteor Blades, Eric Nelson, dewtx, hbk, JeffW

    anti-EPA approach screwed Texas businesses.

    Abbott's challenge to the greenhouse gas permit meant that companies like the Koch Flint Hills refinery had to get greenhouse permits from the Federal EPA, which took 16 months and a stringent review, rather than from the more permissive Texas State air agency.

    “The answer must be, I think, that beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.” ― Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

    by 6412093 on Wed Aug 13, 2014 at 11:30:05 AM PDT

  •  Abbott: "just drive around" to protect yourself (6+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eric Nelson, dewtx, hbk, JeffW, 6412093, BlackSheep1

    from hazardous chemicals in the environment. If he thinks companies will welcome a friendly inquiry about their explosive chemicals, perhaps the same approach applies to chemicals in our drinking water....

    http://www.texasmonthly.com/...

    Wendy Davis clearly won her exchange with Greg Abbott over whether the public had the right to know where dangerous chemicals may be stored. Abbott had previously ruled that “government can withhold state records of dangerous chemicals locations [from the public].” Abbott’s advice to families concerned about the issue bordered on the preposterous: “You know where they are if you drive around,” he said. “You can ask every facility whether they have chemicals or not. If they do, they can tell which ones they have. Homeowners who think they might live near stores of dangerous chemicals would simply ask the companies what substances are kept on site."

    Resist much, obey little. ~~Edward Abbey, via Walt Whitman

    by willyr on Wed Aug 13, 2014 at 11:59:45 AM PDT

  •  A corpo shill that happily wastes peoples hard.. (6+ / 0-)

    ..earned tax dollars

    “What I really do for fun is I go into the office, [and] I sue the Obama administration,” has challenged EPA’s critical climate and health protections at every turn. However, Abbott’s vendetta against EPA has wasted millions of taxpayer’s dollars and his loss column continues to tally higher.
    And hides from the people. Outlawing the peoples right to know if there are dangerous chemical storage sites, like west Texas explosion:

     (short ad - sorry)
    link: http://www.nbcnews.com/...
    In an earlier comment Abbott was the same lie. Trying to trick people to believe he is on their side:

    “[T]he proposed rule … would erode private property rights and have devastating effects on the landowners of Texas.”

    I hope Wendy Davis can use these facts about Abbotts  corpo shilling, putting people in real danger and end the republican agenda this next election.

    I'm a bit off topic from clean drinking water, but to me it's all of the same agenda that Rick Perry couldn't remember during the debates.
    Ending the EPA, and/or flouting laws on the books under cover of an attack on President Obama.

    This is what is hard for Wendy Davis and Dems all over the countyr to fight against - imo - when the republican agenda is so wrong serving only the needs of corporate interests; actually polluting the land/environment and endangering people they do this:

    The GOP then corrupt and reframe the issues using Karl Rovian tactics of mixing racism, lying at high school level maturity (if that) that are purposefully low down and gut level childish emotional games; stooping so low as a distraction, inviting Dems to engage in the garbage the GOP produces. Hiding what the GOP is actually up to. An agenda that no one would want for their themselves and families

     It's a challenge not to take the bait and sink that low. I believe Wendy Davis is very qualified to beat Abbott on the real issues. Clean water and Health

    Thx MB

     - It's good to see the losses by GOP/Abbott increasing

    •  I think Sarcasm could be an effective tactic (0+ / 0-)

      for Wendy Davis on these issues.  For instance, just say:

      " I am Proud to live in the great State of Texas because our citizens enjoy so many rights and freedoms.

      1.  The right to live next to a chemical plant that could blow me to smithereens, since after all, I do not want the Government to tell me where to live!

      2. The right to drink poisoned well water, since there is no way the Government can tell me what to drink!

      3.  And, of course, the right to build or grow anything I want in my house or on my property, because my explosive devices and drugs are my own personal freedoms!

      Thank God for the Great State of Texas!"

      Dammit Jim, I'm a Doctor, not a Bricklayer!

      by dbcoe on Wed Aug 13, 2014 at 06:28:55 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  trashing environmental laws is like Viagra (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    6412093

    for red state republican governors and attorney generals....they can't quite get enough of 'it'

    Rick Snyder is trying to get EPA Region V to approve a scheme he got through the legislature to excuse environmental violations under a clean corporate citizen program.    I've got to write this up and see if Mark Schauer can get President Obama's attention to ensure this Rick Snyder exemption for environmental penalties is not approved as part of Michigan's federally approved State Implementation Plan.

  •  Is everything bigger in Texas, or just the (0+ / 0-)

    pollution?

    Well, maybe Abbott's ego too...but other than that, just the pollution.

    Just doing my part to piss off right wing nuts, one smart ass comment at a time.

    by tekno2600 on Wed Aug 13, 2014 at 04:11:49 PM PDT

  •  As a future Texan, due to immanent retirement and (0+ / 0-)

    grandkids, please Texas . . .

    I'm sending money.  Wendy.

    A drowning man can not learn to swim. -- Chris Lonsdale

    by Rikon Snow on Wed Aug 13, 2014 at 05:37:33 PM PDT

  •  Greg Abbott Stuck in a Ditch nt (0+ / 0-)

    I want 1 less Tiny Coffin, Why Don't You? Support The President's Gun Violence Plan.

    by JML9999 on Wed Aug 13, 2014 at 05:39:08 PM PDT

  •  Even Bush II, the shitiest Pres since Buchanan... (0+ / 0-)

    and according to surveys of historians, that's pretty much best case...

    Even the guy that was responsible for the biggest strategical, tactical and PR disasters the US has ever endured (thanks to him, not circumstances), even that worthless waste of humanity TIGHTENED EPA RULES.  Just pointing out how ideocrazical Repubs are nowadays.

    I ride the wild horse .

    by BelgianBastard on Wed Aug 13, 2014 at 05:48:12 PM PDT

  •  Texans Don't Need Clean Air, Clean Water, & (0+ / 0-)

    uncontaminated soil -- they have Jeezuz.

    (Texans believe that the EPA should be the Environmental Prostitution Agency)

  •  With respect to the CWA rules, he has a point. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    6412093

    The rules have extended from legislation that provided the Corps of Engineers regulatory authority of water of the US, at the time using the term "navigable". The current situation is a tangled mess resulting from the unwillingness or inability to adopt clear, concise modern legislation supporting environmental goals.

    As mentioned by Abbott, EPA is now looking to amend the rules to clarify that man-made ditches, once they are built, fall under their environmental jurisdiction. This would codify what EPA and the Corps have interpreted the legislation to mean for years. Yet hundreds, if not thousands, of miles of otherwise jurisdictional natural waterways in Appalachia  are filled with waste from strip mining and mountain top removal because, legally, within EPA's rule making, waste placed from surface mining is defined, legally, as not being fill, therefore, the streams are not disturbed.

    Protecting our waterways is tantamount to protecting our environment. But EPA is not relying on science, but rather on politics and money, for much of what they do. And when EPA officials testify in court that under the CWA they have the legal authority to regulate the flow of water from the downspout of your house and along the street curb as a water of the US, while ignoring gigantic hollow fills in mining then a lot of regular people think they have gone too far.

    •  Baloney, KYrocky (0+ / 0-)

      Please provide links for your claim the EPA has testified in court it can regulate water from your house downspout or along the street curb.

      “The answer must be, I think, that beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.” ― Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

      by 6412093 on Wed Aug 13, 2014 at 06:25:06 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Nice work if you can get it. (0+ / 0-)

    Free Will is the only moral law.//If you have to explain snark, it's because it isn't working on one end or the other.

    by franklyn on Wed Aug 13, 2014 at 05:52:23 PM PDT

  •  water (0+ / 0-)

    Ask the citizens of Toledo how they feel about EPA regulating water. The states will never do the right thing. Especially Republicans, they have sold out to corporate people

  •  Wonder if he feels the same on Border Patrol (0+ / 0-)

    ... Border Patrol checkpoints.

    Abbot says:

    “Under this proposed definition, it is difficult to envision any lands—especially those that lie near the coast—that are not potentially within the ambit of federal jurisdiction. This broad and overreaching definition would impose virtually no limit on federal jurisdiction …”
    Wonder if he feels the same about Border Patrol checkpoints which are sometimes hundreds of miles inland and the type that detained immigration activist Jose Antonio Vargas?

    "I'm not a number" --84,414

    by BentLiberal on Wed Aug 13, 2014 at 06:18:40 PM PDT

  •  Lots of Texans are so desperate for a poorly (0+ / 0-)

    paying job that they don't want government regulations that might keep their company from blowing up and destroying most of their town.

    Expecting these people to care about something as long-range as the environment is futile.

    We haven't slid back to slavery, but we are approaching serfdom for many Americans.

  •  Which landowners (0+ / 0-)

    “[T]he proposed rule … would erode private property rights and have devastating effects on the landowners of Texas.”

    Which landowners? The ones dumping their poisons in the water? Or the ones who wind up next to poisoned streams and with poisoned wells?

  •  He should be dipped in the Rio Grande (0+ / 0-)

    It's worse than the River Styx these days.

    Texans, if you don't stand up for clean water like you have for women's health care, you're doomed.

    DOOOOOOMED!

    THE ONLY WAY YOU CAN CONTROL PEOPLE IS TO LIE TO THEM. You can write that down in your book in great big letters. -- L. Ron Hubbard Technique 88

    by xenubarb on Sun Aug 17, 2014 at 09:58:02 PM PDT

  •  It's almost like they can't stand (0+ / 0-)

    the idea that yes, these rules are working, slowly but surely, the Chesapeake Bay is getting better! So now we have states that aren't anywhere near the Bay fighting against the rules because I guess they think, "It's my God/Jesus right to pollute the ground water that seeps to the Bay, dang it!"

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