House Members Tell Bush Administration to Maintain Clean Water Act Protections for Small Streams and Wetlands

Statement by Daniel Rosenberg, Attorney at NRDC (the Natural Resources Defense Council)

WASHINGTON (November 25, 2003) - More than 200 members of the House of Representatives sent a letter to President Bush today, urging the administration to abandon its plans to lift Clean Water Act protection for more than 50 percent of the nation's streams and wetlands. The letter also called on the administration to immediately withdraw a directive to Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineer field staff to stop enforcing Clean Water Act protections for many wetlands and streams even prior to the rulemaking.

The 218 House members who signed the letter join 39 states, more than 30 hunting and fishing organizations, and tens of thousands of citizens who have expressed their opposition to narrowing the protective scope of the Clean Water Act.

The four representatives who cosponsored the letter are John Dingell (D-MI), Jim Saxton (R-NJ), Jim Leach (R-IA) and Jim Oberstar (D-MN). They released the letter during a telephone press briefing held today.

The letter comes less than two weeks after the Los Angeles Times obtained a draft of the administration's proposed rule, which could remove Clean Water Act protection for a majority of the nation's streams and wetlands. The draft rule would remove protection for all streams that do not run for at least six months a year or those that are not primarily fed by groundwater. Most of the streams in the West and Southwest, and many streams in other parts of the country would fail to meet these arbitrary criteria.

Below is a statement from NRDC attorney Daniel Rosenberg:

"Today's letter from a majority of the House of Representatives sends a strong message to the administration that it should drop its plan to weaken Clean Water Act protections for our streams and wetlands. The question is whether anyone at the White House is listening.

"The Bush administration's draft proposal is scientifically indefensible and would consign most Americans to dirtier drinking water and fewer places to safely swim, fish, or canoe. Moreover, it would sign a death sentence for America's wildlife. But because trashing the Clean Water Act is a top holiday wish for the Bush administration's friends in the construction, oil, mining and chemical industries, it's at the top of the "To Do" list for the administration.

"We want to thank Representatives Leach, Saxton, Dingell and Oberstar for their strong bi-partisan leadership to prevent the Bush administration from liquidating our waters and handing them over to the nation's largest polluters."

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 550,000 members nationwide, served from offices in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco.