Environmental Protection

Western Lawmakers Oppose Clean Water Restoration Act

In a letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Members of the House and Senate Western Caucuses cited concerns over job loss and regulatory overreach in expressing their strong objections to the Clean Water Restoration Act (CWRA).

The bill was introduced in April by Sen. Russell Feingold of Wisconsin and was sent to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works in June.

The letter, signed by 11 western senators and 17 western House members, stated, “In the West… where the frontier spirit of smaller government and individual liberty are still sacred traditions, there is overwhelming objection to this bill. We strongly object to any attempt to move this legislation, either as a stand-alone bill or as an attachment to a bill, in the Senate or House of Representatives. More specifically, we cannot imagine any bill so important that we could support it with the Clean Water Restoration Act attached.”

The bill seeks to expand the jurisdictional sweep of the Clean Water Act, introduced in 1972, by granting the federal government authority over all U.S. waterways. Most notably, S. 787 removes the requirement that regulated waterways be “navigable,” as originally stated in the Clean Water Act. The deletion of the word “navigable” will allow all inland waters to be subject to federal regulation.

The letter further stated, “This legislation would grant the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers, virtually unlimited regulatory control over all wet areas within a state. This bill attempts to trump state’s rights and pre-empts state and local governments from making local land and water use decisions. This bill will also build an even more expensive, cumbersome bureaucracy which will increase delays in securing permits and will slow or stop vital economic activities all across the country. Commercial and residential real estate development, agriculture, electric transmission, transportation and mining will all be effected [sic]. Thousands of jobs will be lost.”

The proposed legislation would make it more costly to:

  • grow crops
  • manage livestock
  • provide water to local municipalities
  • operate and maintain water storage and delivery facilities
  • carry out other activities on both public and private lands.

Congressman Rob Bishop (R-Utah), said: “As fellow Westerners, surely Senator Reid and Congresswoman Pelosi recognize the impact this legislation will have on communities and industries throughout the West. The unprecedented expansion of the federal government’s power and control over our nation’s waterways will make way for complete federal regulation of every water resource in the U.S.- from puddles to playas. If the federally created drought in California is any indication of what federal control of water will be like, we must do everything possible to prevent this legislation from moving forward.”

Congressman Don Young (R-Alaska), said that the measure would affect Alaska more than any other state because it contains 63 percent of the total wetland acreage in the United States (excluding Hawaii). " Federal infringement on state jurisdiction is wrong and this language encourages such actions. Seasonal and/or isolated waters, and essentially any wet area, would be within federal reach even if there is no hydrological connection to a navigable waterbody. Allowing the federal government to seize control of all intrastate waters would have a harmful impact on construction, resource development, and the economy of all of our states including Alaska and I will be a very vocal opponent to this language.”

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