218 House members ask White House to uphold Clean Water Act

A bipartisan group of 218 Members of the U.S. House of Representatives have sent a letter to President Bush asking that he halt efforts to reduce the scope of Clean Water Act safeguards for the nation's waters.


Dec. 1, 2003 -- A bipartisan group of 218 Members of the U.S. House of Representatives have sent a letter to President Bush asking that he halt efforts to reduce the scope of Clean Water Act safeguards for the nation's waters.

The Nov. 25 letter was in response to a new policy and rulemaking effort launched by U.S. EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers that could undo Clean Water Act protections for a large percentage of the nation's streams, wetlands, ponds and other waterways.

The effort was lead by Reps. John Dingell (D-MI-15th), James Leach (R-IA-2nd), James Oberstar (D-MN-8th) and James Saxton (R-NJ-3rd). The letter asks for the President's support to ensure that the nation's streams, wetlands, ponds and other waters continue to be protected. The letter urges the President "not to pursue any policy or regulatory changes that would reduce the scope of waters protected under the Clean Water Act. In particular, we ask that you not amend the long-standing definition of waters as suggested by the January 15, 2003 Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and that you rescind the policy guidance issued at the same time."

"The legislative history and the statutory language of the Clean Water Act make it abundantly clear that Congress intended the broadest possible constitutional interpretation of this precedent-setting law," said Rep. Oberstar, Ranking Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. "Narrowing the scope of the Act runs counter to this Congressional intent."

The letter notes that excluding waters from the Act will lead to increased pollution of streams, ponds, and wetlands and, as this pollution flows downstream, greater pollution of our lakes, rivers and coastal waters.

"Governance in society has become so sophisticated that we often overlook and short-change the basics. There is nothing more basic then clean water," said Congressman Leach.

On November 6, 2003 the Los Angeles Times obtained a draft rewrite of the definition of "waters" from an unnamed administration official. The draft supports a new definition of "waters" that would eliminate all Clean Water Act safeguards for the majority of streams, wetlands, and ponds across the country.

"I was proud to play a part in enacting the Clean Water Act. Prior to that landmark legislation, rivers were catching on fire and fisherman dubbed Lake Erie the Dead Sea," said Rep. Dingell, Ranking Member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. "We have come too far to allow a roll-back."

"The Clean Water Act is a landmark piece of legislation which shouldn't be diluted," said Rep. Saxton, Vice Chairman of the House Fisheries Conservation, Wildlife and Oceans Subcommittee. "Congress has few responsibilities greater than preserving clean water for future generations, and improving the quality of water damaged by many years of neglect. I'm pleased to see a bipartisan message being made that we are unified on an issue that affects every state and every home and every citizen."

Click here to view a full copy of the letter in PDF format.

Source: Rep. John Dingell.

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