Today, Chairman James L. Oberstar (D-MN) is holding a hearing in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to examine Clean Water Act enforcement deficiencies at the state and federal level. The hearing will focus on the failure to meet the goals of having all our nation’s waters both fishable and swimmable — a strong tenet of the Clean Water Act. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson testified along with other witnesses.
The following statement is from Joan Mulhern, senior legislative counsel for Earthjustice:
“The Clean Water Act is one of our nation’s most important environmental laws, but a lack of enforcement has greatly limited its effectiveness, leaving almost half of our nation’s waters too dirty to meet all of their uses, and in some cases threatening public health. We’re pleased Administrator Jackson has committed to ramping up enforcement efforts and Chairman Oberstar and his committee are discussing the enforcement problems that are keeping the Clean Water Act from achieving its broad goals.
“One of the most significant enforcement problems today is that two muddied Supreme Court decisions have left many of our streams, lakes, rivers and wetlands vulnerable and unprotected. Internal EPA documents show that between July 2006 and December 2007, confusion about Clean Water Act jurisdiction resulting from these decisions adversely affected approximately 500 of EPA’s Clean Water Act enforcement cases — almost 40 percent of the agency’s annual docket.
“Congress must pass legislation restoring the Clean Water Act’s broad scope, ensuring the protection of all of our nation’s waters against pollution, degradation and destruction. By passing the Clean Water Restoration Act, it would return the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act to protect all streams, lakes, rivers and wetlands that were protected before the Supreme Court decisions.”