The US EPA today announced that it will not move forward with a proposed rulemaking to weaken the Clean Water Act’s rules defining “waters of the United States.”
“In the face of overwhelming support from the public for clean water — and overwhelming opposition in Congress to weakening the law — the EPA and White House are making the right decision,” said Joan Mulhern, senior Legislative Counsel for Earthjustice. “There is no question that dropping the idea of weakening the Clean Water Act’s rules is the right thing to do.”
“However, in order to fully enforce the Clean Water Act and protect all waters, the Bush administration must not only stop the proposed rulemaking, but must rescind the guidance policy, issued at the same time as the proposed rule,” Mulhern added. “That guidance itself threatens protections for over 20 million acres of wetlands, according to EPA estimates. Tens of thousands of miles of streams are also at risk because of that policy.”
“The goal of the Clean Water Act — to make all of the nation’s waters safe for fishing, swimming, drinking and other uses — cannot be met if any waters are cut out of the law’s scope,” said Mulhern. “The nation’s waters will not be fully protected until the guidance is withdrawn.”
In November, a bipartisan group of 218 U.S. Representatives sent a letter to President Bush asking him to stop the proposed rulemaking that would limit the types of waters covered by the Clean Water Act. The letter to President Bush was organized by Reps. John Dingell (D-MI), James Leach (R-IA), James Oberstar (D-MN), and Jim Saxton (R-NJ). Senators Russell Feingold (D-WI), Jim Jeffords (I-VT), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), and 23 other Senators sent a similar letter to President Bush in October.
In addition to asking President Bush to not change Clean Water Act rules, both letters requested that the administration withdraw a policy guidance issued in January that weakened enforcement of federal protections over some types of streams, wetlands, and ponds.