Important clean water legislation advanced today after a Senate committee debate and vote. By a vote of 12-7, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved a compromise version of the bill introduced by Senators Baucus (MT), Klobuchar (MN), and Boxer (CA). The original Clean Water Restoration Act (S. 787) was introduced by Senator Russ Feingold in April.
The legislation reinstates the power of the Clean Water Act to protect all “waters of the United States;” the law was weakened due to two recent muddled Supreme Court rulings.
The following statement is by Joan Mulhern, senior legislative counsel for Earthjustice:
“As Americans set out on summer vacations along our nation’s lakes and rivers, the Senate Environment and Public Works committee is appropriately working to make sure these water bodies are kept clean and safe. Monday, June 22nd marks the 40th anniversary of the polluted Cuyahoga River catching fire – the event that galvanized our country’s leaders to pass the Clean Water Act. By supporting the Clean Water Restoration Act, Congress has an opportunity to honor our country’s legacy by guaranteeing something like this never happens again.
“For decades the Clean Water Act protected all streams, rivers and lakes from destruction — until 2001, when protections for thousands of water bodies were called into question by the Supreme Court. Polluters are seizing on this ambiguity in the law, so the nation can not afford to wait longer to fix this problem.
“The measure passed today was a compromise, but it was an important first step in the process that we hope will quickly lead to permanently fixing the Clean Water Act, one of our country’s most important environmental laws. We applaud the work of the Senate EPW Committee to address this issue.
“Unfortunately, some Senators on the committee, including Senators Inhofe (OK), Barrasso (WY), Vitter (LA), and others actually tried to exempt every stream and wetland in the country from the Clean Water Act. This extreme, anti-clean water position in the 21st century is shocking, especially considering that the Clean Water Act was passed unanimously in the Senate in 1972.
“Today’s committee vote is a necessary action towards assuring that all of America’s waters will be protected from destruction, pollution and degradation. We pledge to work with EPW Senators and all members of Congress to support the strongest possible bill, guaranteeing these our nation’s waterways remain protected.”