Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Senate Hearing On Clean Water Restoration Act

Apr 9: The Senate Environment and Pubic Works Committee, Chaired by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), held a hearing entitled, “Legislative Hearing on S. 1870, the Clean Water Restoration Act of 2007 [See WIMS 5/22/07]." Witnesses testifying at the hearing included Carol Browner, former U.S. EPA Administrator and now a principal with The Albright Group, LLC; and representatives of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation; Arizona Department of Environmental Quality; Madison County, State of Ohio; and Smith 6-S Livestock.

The original House bill, introduced by Representative Jim Oberstar (D-MN), Chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee along with 175 cosponsors (companion bill Senate bill S.1870), is regarded by proponents as a "fix" designed to restore the authority of the Clean Water Act so it has the same effect it had prior to the Supreme Court’s rulings in 2001 and 2006 that question the ability of U.S. EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to enforce the Clean Water Act on wetlands, streams and ponds that are not part of a major “navigable” waterway [Access various posts on WIMS-eNewsUSA Blog and the WIMS-EcoBizPort Special Report on the Rapanos Supreme Court Decision & Related Activities]. The first sentence of the act reads, “The Purpose of this act is as follows: To reaffirm the original intent of Congress in enacting the Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972 (86 Stat. 816) to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the waters of the United States.” CWRA would also reaffirm exemptions for farming, mining, logging and other activities that are not regulated by the Clean Water Act.

Senator Boxer's opening statement was not readily available but she indicated that the CWA authorities should be increased -- not decreased. She said the current problems with the CWA are the result of "activist Justices" and their interpretation of the Act. In his opening statement, Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) said, "This bill, as currently written, will expand federal jurisdiction authority in a way that pushes the outer limits of Congress’s constitutional role. If Congress is to amend the Clean Water Act, any changes must provide clarity and reduce lawsuits. This bill does neither. It will not curtail litigation, but rather increase it, as stakeholders seek legal clarity on what exactly are the outer limits of Congressional authority. We should not propose and pass legislative language that increases uncertainty and increases an already litigious environment."

A number of major environmental and conservations organizations are supporting the act including: American Rivers; Clean Water Network; Earthjustice; Environment America; Izaak Walton League of America; League of Conservation Voters; National Wildlife Federation; Natural Resources Defense Council; Sierra Club; Southern Environmental Law Center; Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership; and Trout Unlimited. The groups issued a joint release saying, “The Supreme Court and the Bush Administration have placed vital Clean Water Act protections in doubt for many important waters, making it easier to pollute and destroy these waters. Corporations and developers are spending millions to defeat this bill, because taking responsibility for safeguarding clean water cuts into company profits."

Access the hearing website for links to all testimony, opening statements and a webcast (
click here). Access a release from environmental/conservation groups (click here). Access legislative details for S. 1870 (click here). Access legislative details for H.R. 2421 (click here). [*Water]