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Nov-14-2011 13:44printcomments

Senate Amendment Threatens America's Clean Water Legacy

The Clean Water Act of 1972 is supposed to safeguard all the “waters of the United States” from unregulated pollution discharges.

The world can not survive without clean water.
The world can not survive without clean water.

(WASHINGTON D.C. ) - If you think the stream your children play in and the bodies of water that supply drinking water to you and your family are free of potentially dangerous levels of bacteria and pollutants like oil, and maybe even carcinogens, think again.

That's because a new assault is underway in Congress on the Clean Water Act, the landmark law designed to protect such bodies of water that has been under siege for a decade.

The latest attempt to subvert the law is scheduled for a vote by the Senate as early as this Tuesday. If successful, it would kill a critical initiative to guarantee protections for many streams and wetlands, giving polluters license to poison such bodies of water.

We urge you to educate your readers about the stakes, and to oppose the amendment that Sens. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., and Dean Heller, R-Nev., intend to attach to the Energy and Water appropriations bill.

The measure would undercut protections for small and irregularly-flowing steams, of which there are roughly two million miles outside of Alaska, and which contribute to the drinking water supplies of about 117 million Americans. In addition, the rider would attack protection for about 20 percent of the nation’s remaining wetlands.

The Clean Water Act of 1972 is supposed to safeguard all the “waters of the United States” from unregulated pollution discharges.

But rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2001 and 2006 created uncertainty over whether certain kinds of waters are protected by the law, especially those that are geographically "isolated" from others or ones that lack permanent flow and aren’t “navigable.” During the George W. Bush administration, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers further complicated matters by issuing "guidance" that actually fomented even greater doubt over federal jurisdiction, which made the law difficult, time-consuming, and expensive to implement.

As a result, officials have been unable to effectively enforce the law in hundreds of cases of potential violations of the Clean Water Act throughout the country.

Under President Obama, the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers have initiated actions designed to restore the protection of the law to critical water bodies as Congress intended.

But masquerading as a measure to clear up the miasma of uncertainty, the Barrasso-Heller amendment actually seeks to block the Obama Administration's current efforts to restore public protections. Moreover, the senators' proposal would permanently prevent action to clarify the law.

NRDC Founder John Adams, who helped shape the Clean Water Act as we know it, summed up the issue in his blog entry when a similar measure went in front of the House this summer:

Senior Attorney Jon Devine discusses attacks on clean water:

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dsmithcsep November 15, 2011 10:30 am (Pacific time)

The two links in the story to require a email address and password to log in - there is no option to create an account.

Editor: Sorry about this, I am adding extra information from the press releases that this originates from:

For further information contact Suzanne Struglinski at tel:202-289-2387 or


Lon November 15, 2011 6:27 am (Pacific time)

Oh my! How uninformed are you! This is already addressed in local and federal laws. The EPA and the Corp are over reaching it authority and that is the reason for bill. As I state above, this is already addressed by local authorities and I urge you to contact your local Soil and Water Conservation office so they may explain this. SWCDs are one of the most important local units of Government and most people do not even know they exist. Please do more research prior to publishing these type of incorrect and harmful articles.

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