Environmental Protection

Boxer Updates Status of Water Bills

Last week, U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, said, "Today the [committee] took historic steps to restore, in a balanced way, the common-sense Clean Water Act protections that have been in place for decades. We also passed important measures to ensure our families have clean, safe water, to promote conservation of migratory birds, and to protect America's beaches, lakes, rivers, bays, and wetlands. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle as these bills are considered by the full Senate."

The committee approved the following bills:

  • S. 787, the Clean Water Restoration Act (Baucus/Boxer/Klobuchar Substitute),
  • S. 878, Clean Coastal Environment and Public Health Act of 2009 (formerly known as the Beach Protection Act),
  • S. 937, Sewage Overflow Community Right-to-Know Act,
  • S. 690, Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act Reauthorization,
  • S. 479, Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network Continuing Authorization Act,
  • S. 933, Contaminated Sediment Remediation Reauthorization Act (Great Lakes Legacy Act).

The bills now go to the full Senate for consideration.

According to a National Wildlife Federation press release, the Committee voted 12 to 7 to advance an amended S. 787. Sens. Baucus (D-Mont.), Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and Boxer clarified through an amendment to the bill that broad, existing Clean Water Act exemptions for agriculture and forestry were to be retained. While other amendments to create new and broader exemptions for agricultural pollution were offered, none were accepted by the committee.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 59 percent of stream miles in the continental U.S. are intermittent or ephemeral and many of these have been losing Clean Water Act protection since 2006. These streams provide important drinking water, flood control, and aquatic habitat functions. An estimated 20 million acres of wetlands – or 20 percent of all remaining wetlands in the lower 48 states – are already losing Clean Water Act protection, and many more are at risk. EPA estimates that more than 110 million Americans get their drinking water from public supplies fed in whole or in part by intermittent or ephemeral streams vulnerable to pollution under these decisions.

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