EPW Committee Approves Clean Water Restoration Act
June 19, 2009
Washington, DC - The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved S. 787, the Clean Water Restoration Act, which restores the Clean Water Act's protections for America's rivers, lakes and wetlands as they existed for 30 years prior to two recent Supreme Court rulings.
The legislation approved by the Committee on June 18, incorporates a compromise authored by Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and EPW Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) to meet the goals of restoring the environmental safeguards in place for more than three decades, while maintaining longstanding protections for farmers, ranchers and wastewater systems under the Clean Water Act.
Senator Boxer said: "The Clean Water Act -- one of America's bedrock environmental laws - has helped to restore thousands of lakes, rivers, streams and wetlands, protecting the water supply for our families and providing essential habitat for fish and birds and other wildlife."
"For years, communities and businesses have been accustomed to the protections and exemptions the Act provides. But because of two recent decisions by the Supreme Court in SWANCC and Rapanos, there is now great confusion about which waters are protected and which are not. Thousands of miles of streams and millions of acres of wetlands have been opened up to uncontrolled pollution and destruction."
"Senator Feingold introduced a bill to restore the Clean Water Act, and I applaud him for his leadership. But I also recognize that there are concerns about unintended consequences the legislation may have. In recognition of these concerns, I asked Senator Baucus to find the sweet spot that addresses criticisms while restoring critical Clean Water Act protections. Working together with Senator Klobuchar, the compromise we have developed returns the Act to the familiar place we have known for decades."
"The amendment that Senator Baucus offered today also takes great steps to ensure the protections from unnecessary regulations that farmers and ranchers have enjoyed for more than 30 years will be maintained."
"I would like to commend both Senator Baucus and Senator Klobuchar for the great work that was done to get here."
"We have made great progress, but there remains confusion for some about the goals of this effort today. Some have suggested the goal is to expand the Clean Water Act to regulate bird baths, swimming pools, and water bodies that were never regulated before, but I am here to tell you that it is not true. In fact, right in the language of this compromise it tells EPA and the Corps to interpret this Act the same way they did the day before the SWANCC case."
"Today the Environment and Public Works Committee moved forward to restore the common-sense Clean Water Act protections that have been in place for decades."
"Republican and Democratic leaders alike have come together to support this effort. Former EPA Administrators under Nixon, Ford, George HW Bush, and Clinton have all called on Congress to address the confusion created by the courts and restore the Clean Water Act. Sportsmen groups, like the Izaak Walton League, and Ducks Unlimited, representatives of the farming community, state governments, and water agencies have supported this effort."
"Let me just read a few quotes from some of the support letters we have received:"
"Governor Schwarzenegger's EPA Secretary says,
"I...express my strong support for the compromise amendment that will be offered...The amendments provide a sound approach toward resolving the problems that have arisen from the Supreme Court's rulings."
"Ducks Unlimited, the National Wildlife Federation, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, and Trout Unlimited joined to say,
"...we are pleased that the agreed upon language restores critical protections for the nation's waters while respecting private property rights and long-standing exemptions for agriculture and forestry."
"We have reached out to a variety of interests over the past few weeks to build the broadest consensus possible. As we move forward, we will continue to have an open door to hear from people and ensure that we meet the goal of restoring the protections in place for 30 years, but going no further."
"The compromise that the Committee approved today is a huge step forward, and I look forward to working with Senators Baucus and Klobuchar and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle as the Senate considers this important legislation."
Supreme Court decisions in 2001 (Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County v. United States Army Corps of Engineers ("SWANCC")) and 2006 (Rapanos v. United States) dramatically narrowed the scope of waters protected by the Clean Water Act, fostering confusion and uncertainty for communities and businesses and making it difficult to protect public health and the environment.
On May 21, the Obama administration sent a letter urging enactment of legislation to amend the Clean Water Act. The letter, signed by Nancy Sutley, the Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality; Lisa Jackson, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency; Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack; Interior Secretary Ken Salazar; and Acting Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Terrence Salt, outlines principles for legislation to clarify the meaning of the term "waters of the United States."