On 30th Anniversary of Clean Water Act, Administration is Trying to Dismantle It
WASHINGTON (October 18, 2002) -- Today, while the Bush administration holds events around the country commemorating the 30th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, it is quietly trying to dismantle it, according to report issued today by NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). The law, which has enjoyed popular and bipartisan political support since it was enacted, is now facing a serious threat from a series of Bush administration proposals.
"The administration is hosting events nationwide to celebrate one of our most successful and popular environmental laws, and behind the scenes is trying to kill it," said Nancy Stoner, director of NRDC's Clean Water Project. "It's a plot worthy of Shakespeare."
In many ways, the Clean Water Act has done its job, said Stoner. Over the last three decades we have doubled the number of U.S. households served by sewage treatment plants, cut the rate of wetland loss by 75 percent, and significantly reduced the percentage of our waterways deemed unsafe for fishing and swimming.
But there is still much work to do, Stoner said. Some 218 million Americans live within 10 miles of a polluted lake, river, stream or coastal area. About 45 percent of the nation's assessed waters are still unsafe for fishing, swimming or supporting aquatic life -- up from 40 percent in 1998.
Regardless, since taking office, the Bush administration spent its first two years in office rolling back Clean Water Act protections. For example, it made it legal for coal companies to dump fill from blown-up mountains into streams; rejected the first President Bush's policy of ensuring no net loss of wetlands; withdrew proposed rules that would have reduced raw sewage discharges; and dropped proposals to cut stormwater pollution from new development. And now the administration is considering proposals that would limit the scope of the Clean Water Act, leaving entire classes of waterways unprotected.
"Removing federal protection for some waterways and wetlands would undercut 30 years of progress," said Stoner. "It would be open season for filling, dredging and dumping waste into any waterway no longer covered by the law, which would have grave implications for controlling pollution and floods, not to mention protecting public health and wildlife habitat. If the Bush administration succeeds, it will turn back the clock to a time when polluters were able to dump waste into our waterways at will."
The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, non-profit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has more than 500,000 members nationwide, served from offices in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco.