Politics Trumps Science at Great Bay Hearing

Peter Wellenberger

The recent Congressional hearing entitled “EPA Overreach and the Impact on New Hampshire Communities” accomplished one thing – it proved that to some, politics are more important than cleaning up the Great Bay estuary.

Congressmen Guinta (R-NH) and his colleague from California, Congressman Issa (who chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform) came to Exeter on June 4 for one reason – to seek confirmation of what they already believed: that EPA is somehow engaging in “overzealous” regulation or “overreach” in taking action required by the Clean Water Act to reduce nitrogen pollution in Great Bay. The only invited speakers were four representatives of the Municipal Coalition – a small group of vocal municipalities doing everything in their power to delay EPA’s permitting process – and EPA Region 1 Administrator, Curt Spalding. Notwithstanding a packed room, the public was not allowed to speak.

Despite numerous claims by the Municipal Coalition that the science is flawed, not a single scientist was asked to testify about the real pollution threats to the Great Bay estuary. Instead we had a Congressman from California listening to a paid consultant from Washington, DC whose only apparent objective was to bash EPA.  Hardly a sound or non-biased approach to determine what action needs to be taken to save our estuary.

The mere title of the hearing made it clear that Congressmen Guinta and Issa had their minds made up before the hearing even began, and that they had one goal in mind – to undermine EPA’s approach to reducing nitrogen pollution in the estuary.  In fact, EPA is proceeding on sound science – based on years of analysis – and doing exactly what is required to restore and protect the estuary before it reaches a tipping point.

At a time when we need to be solving the serious pollution problems threatening the Great Bay estuary, it’s disturbing to see such a concerted effort to denounce the science that clearly documents the estuary’s continuing decline and the need for meaningful action. While other Great Bay communities are willing to move constructively toward solutions, it’s especially sad to see the small handful of communities comprising the Municipal Coalition resort to raw politics and attempt to capitalize on anti-environment, anti-EPA currents in D.C.

Rather than playing politics with the estuary in an effort to disrupt the permitting process, we would better served by Rep. Guinta if he helped communities secure funding to help with upgrades to wastewater treatment plants. Those sorts of solutions – not obfuscation – are what I expect from my government officials.  And we certainly don’t need someone from California telling us in New Hampshire how to clean up our waters.

In the end, the only real outcome from Monday’s hearing was another day wasted. EPA staff had to invest time defending themselves in a hostile and politically motivated environment rather than proceeding with real solutions required to restore and protect the Great Bay estuary.  Enough is enough. The time has come to take real action and support EPA in its efforts.

 

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