Friday, April 03, 2009

Sen. Feingold Bill To Restore Scope Of CWA Protected Waters

Apr 2: Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) reintroduced legislation which he says will "restore protections for waterways throughout the country that impact the drinking water of more than 100 million Americans." Feingold’s Clean Water Restoration Act (CWRA, S. 787) would ensure protections for rivers, streams and wetlands, which were long protected under the Clean Water Act (CWA), but "are now in jeopardy of losing protections as a result of two recent Supreme Court cases." He said, "Since those decisions, more and more waters continue to be stripped of protections previously provided by the CWA, which became law in 1972." Feingold is joined by twenty-three cosponsors including Senator Barbara Boxer, Chairman of the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, and Senator Ben Cardin, Chairman of the EPW Water and Wildlife Subcommittee.

Feingold said, “The choice before us today is simple but urgent: If you support the Clean Water Act, you must also support this bill to restore the protections of the Clean Water Act. Every day Congress fails to reaffirm Clean Water Act protections, more and more waters are stripped of their protections, jeopardizing the drinking water of millions of Americans, as well as our nation's wildlife habitats, recreational pursuits, agricultural and industrial uses, and public health. I am pleased the bill has such broad support from governors, attorneys general, farming groups, outdoor recreation groups and others who recognize the great danger of leaving our waters and wetlands unprotected.”

According to a release, the CWA was enacted in 1972 to clean up and protect our nation’s waters, including isolated wetlands and headwater streams, which are critical to our environment and economy. However, two controversial, closely decided U.S. Supreme Court cases, Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County v. Army Corps of Engineers in 2001 and Rapanos v. United States in 2006, greatly reduced the scope of the CWA, undermining decades of clean water protections. Feingold said, "The decisions have also led to significant confusion, permitting delays and increased costs caused by uncertainty about which waters remain protected after the court decisions."

The President and members of his administration have spoken in favor of restoring the scope of the CWA. During the campaign, President Obama’s campaign stated that if elected, he would support and sign into law legislation that effectively restores the historical scope of the CWA. During her nomination hearings, Lisa Jackson, EPA Administrator, stated that if confirmed, she would assist Congress with legislation to clarify the scope of the CWA. And in April 2008, Carol Browner, who served as the EPA Administrator under President Clinton and who currently works on climate change issues in the Obama administration, testified in support of Feingold’s legislation.

Access a release with comments from supporters and link to a list of endorsements (click here). Access legislative details for S. 787 (click here). Access numerous WIMS-eNewsUSA blog postings on the Rapanos and Northern Cook County decisions and related matters (click here). [*Water]