Water Environment Federation Supports Clean Water Restoration Act

The Water Environment Federation (WEF) has sent a letter to Chairman James Oberstar (D-MN) of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in support of H.R. 2421, The Clean Water Restoration Act (CWRA). Intended to restore the original jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act, the legislation was introduced in response to recent Supreme Court cases that began to narrow the scope of the federal government’s protection of smaller water bodies, such as small tributaries and intermittent streams.

“As water quality professionals, we believe it is vitally important to clarify what should be defined as waters of the United States”, said WEF President Adam Zabinski. “WEF fully supports a watershed approach in addressing water quality issues but it will only work if all waterbodies within a given watershed receive protection under the Clean Water Act. We commend this action by Chairman Oberstar and his House co-sponsors to proactively address this issue and clear up any confusion caused by the recent court rulings.”

For more than three decades the U.S. Clean Water Act has been utilized by federal and state governments to clean up the nation’s most polluted waters and protect smaller waterbodies and wetland areas from pollution and development. Some of those protections ended after two U.S. Supreme Court decisions - Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County (SWANCC) v. Army Corps of Engineers and Rapanos et ux., et at. v. United States - left about 20 million acres of geographically isolated wetlands at risk and 60% of the nation’s stream miles unprotected.

The CWRA, introduced in the House of Representatives by Chairman Oberstar last May, restores those protections and clears up confusion created by the rulings. Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) introduced the companion bill in the Senate in August. The legislation does not expand the jurisdiction of the federal government or place increased regulatory restrictions on wastewater treatment plants, agriculture, and forestry. WEF’s letter of support was sent on November 6th conditioned on the understanding that the legislation will not affect the current regulatory wastewater treatment exemptions.

“I appreciate WEF’s support for this important bill,” said Chairman Oberstar. “With enactment of this legislation, the understanding of clean water jurisdiction that existed for nearly 30 years will be reestablished, there will be regulatory certainty, and the nation will be better able to protect and maintain its water-related environment. WEF’s support for the bill will put us one step closer to restoring the environmental protections afforded by the Clean Water Act.”

A hearing on the legislation is scheduled for December 6th. For more information, visit www.wef.org.

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