Statement of Earthjustice Senior Legislative Counsel Joan Mulhern

Earth Day 2003: The destruction of the Clean Water Act


Joan Mulhern, 202-667-4500 x 223


Cat Lazaroff, 202-667-4500 x 213

“Not only is it Earth Day, President Bush has also declared this year to be the “Year of Clean Water.” Yet his administration has chosen a perverse way to mark these two important occasions. Instead of demonstrating a commitment to cleaning up the nation’s water, the Bush administration is in the process of redefining which waters even count as “waters of the United States.” This measure is intended to completely repeal all federal Clean Water Act protections for as much as 60 percent of the nation’s streams, 20 million acres of wetlands, and countless small ponds across the country, and would inevitably result in much more water pollution from coast to coast and everywhere in between.

“Just last Wednesday, the Bush administration closed the public comment period on ‘Phase One’ of their dirty water plan, the first step towards taking away federal protection for many of our nation’s waters. Tens of thousands of Americans sent comments asking the administration to drop their plan to dismantle the Clean Water Act. Today I ask – will the Bush administration listen to the people in this country who want clean water for their families to drink, swim and play in, fish and hunt in? Or will the administration listen to the wishes of polluting industries – oil and gas companies, coal and hardrock mining corporations, commercial developers, and others – that want to foul and destroy the nation’s precious water resources with any interference from government or the public?

“When Congress passed the Clean Water Act 30 years – by an overwhelming bi-partisan margin – it clearly said that no industry has the right to pollute the nation’s waters, and that every community in the country deserves clean water. The Bush administration is trying to flip the law on its head: under its plan, it seems that every industry deserves to pollute as much as it likes, and that no community has a right to clean water.

“The streams, ponds and wetlands jeopardized by the Bush administration’s proposal have been explicitly included in the Clean Water Act’s implementing regulations since the 1970s. No President in over 30 years has ever proposed such radical restrictions on the Clean Water Act as are now being considered by this administration. We urge the Bush administration to reconsider this water pollution proposal and instead to enforce, not dismantle, the Clean Water Act. We call on Congress to tell the Bush administration it must not weaken this popular and successful environmental law.”

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Legislation to ensure that the nation’s streams, wetlands, natural ponds and other waters remain protected by the federal Clean Water Act was introduced in February by 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). This “Clean Water Authority Restoration Act” would reaffirm the original purpose of the Clean Water Act, prevent the Bush administration’s efforts to cut waters out of federal protection, and recommit the country to the goal of achieving clean and safe water for every community in the nation.

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