Legislation to ensure that the nation's streams, wetlands, natural ponds and other waters remain protected by the federal Clean Water Act was announced at a press conference held by the bill's Congressional sponsors. Original sponsors of the bill include Senators Russ Feingold (D-WI), James Jeffords (I-VT), Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Representatives James Oberstar (D-MN), John Dingell (D-MI), James Leach (R-IA) and Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY).
Statement of Earthjustice Senior Legislative Counsel Joan Mulhern:
"Earthjustice thanks Senator Feingold, Senator Jeffords, Representative Oberstar, Representative Dingell, Representative Leach and the other cosponsors for introducing this important Clean Water Act legislation. Their leadership on this issue is critical for the future of the nation's waters and the health of the people and wildlife that depend on clean water for survival.
"The need for Congress to reaffirm Clean Water Act protections for all of the nation's waters was initially raised by the US Supreme Court's January, 2001 decision in Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County v. Army Corps of Engineers. The 5 to 4 majority in SWANCC held that Congress did not intend the Clean Water Act to cover so-called 'isolated' waters solely because the water provides habitat for migratory birds.
"Now – using this wrongly-decided but relatively narrow decision as an excuse – the Bush administration is taking the first step towards proposing new rules that would have the effect of repealing Clean Water Act protections for many of the nation's streams, ponds, wetlands and other waters. The future of as many as 60 percent of the nation's streams and 20 million acres of wetlands has been placed in jeopardy by the proposal. In the face of this threat, the need for the Clean Water Authority Restoration Act is clearer than ever.
"This polluted water rulemaking questions whether the Clean Water Act should continue to prohibit discharges of pollution into many streams, ponds, and wetlands used for recreation, commercial fishing, and other uses. These waters have been explicitly included in the Clean Water Act's implementing regulations since the 1970s. The Bush administration's proposal is the latest action in an industry-led effort to gut one of the nation's most important environmental laws, the 30-year old Clean Water Act.
"The administration's rulemaking would turn back the clock to the days when our nation's rivers were so dirty that they caught on fire. It ignores the very purpose of the Clean Water Act, which is to eliminate pollution where it begins instead of forcing huge clean-up costs on communities who need clean water.
"In contrast, the bill being introduced today would reinforce the original purpose of the Act and recommit the Congress and the country to the goal of achieving clean and safe water for every community in every state in the nation. We thank these members of Congress for introducing the Clean Water Authority Restoration Act."
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