How and Why Clean Water Protections Are Being Weakened
The Clean Water Act, as written in 1972, safeguards all of the "waters of the United States," through a number of programs. The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers regulations implementing the law have for decades reflected the intent of Congress to protect all of America's waters. These rules had been upheld by the vast majority of state and federal courts.
In 2001, however, a bare majority of the Supreme Court-in a case called Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook Cty. v. Army Corps of Engineers - ruled 5-4 that the presence of a habitat for migratory birds is not sufficient justification for protection of a water that does not flow year round or that is an "isolated" wetland under the Clean Water Act. The decision in Rapanos v. United States in 2006 created further confusion about which waters deserved protection under the Clean Water Act.
...The Clean Water Restoration Act of 2009(S 787) introduced by Sen. Russell Feingold, D-WI, would accomplish these important goals and has been endorsed by Clean Water Action."
Clean Water Action: A Brief History
Clean Water Action is an organization of 1.2 million members working to empower people to take action to protect America's waters, build healthy communities and to make democracy work for all of us. For 36 years Clean Water Action has succeeded in winning some of the nation's most important environmental protections through grassroots organizing, expert policy research and political advocacy focused on holding elected officials accountable to the public.
Passage of the original 1972 Clean Water Act, with many of the law's most important parts drafted by Clean Water Action, has been followed by other major successes. They include enactment of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act in 1974 and subsequent changes in 1996 that strengthened the law. Clean Water Action's successful defense in 1977 of the Clean Water Act's wetlands protection program was won by a single vote in the U.S. Senate.
Paul Schwartz, Clean Water Action National Policy Coordinator
202-895-0420 ext. 105