New Legislation Reaffirms Clean Water Act Protection

Statement by Daniel Rosenberg, NRDC Attorney

WASHINGTON (February 27, 2003) -- Today a bipartisan group of three senators and four representatives introduced legislation in Congress to ensure that the Clean Water Act will continue to protect all of the waters of the United States. The bill is in response to a Bush administration effort to limit the scope of the law (see NRDC's backgrounder for more information). Below is a statement by Daniel Rosenberg, an attorney at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council).

"The spirit of bi-partisanship is alive and well in Congress, at least when it comes to blocking the Bush administration's attempt to exclude thousands of miles of streams and millions of acres of wetlands from protection under the Clean Water Act.

"In 1972, Congress passed the Clean Water Act to 'restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity' of the nation's rivers, lakes, streams, wetlands and other waters. For more than 30 years, this landmark law has led to great progress in making our waters safer for fishing, swimming, drinking and other uses. That progress is now threatened by the actions of the Bush administration.

"The administration is using a narrow Supreme Court decision from January 2001 as its excuse for recently launching a rulemaking effort to restrict the scope of the Clean Water Act. What this means is that at least 20 million acres of wetlands and half of U.S. streams, excluding Alaska, could be in jeopardy of losing their federal protection.

"Stripping away Clean Water Act protection for these resources would open the way for unregulated wetlands destruction and water pollution on a massive scale. Water quality in larger rivers and estuaries downstream would worsen due to the increased flows of toxic waste, nutrients, sediment and floodwaters. In addition, the resulting loss and destruction of habitat for migratory waterfowl, fish, shellfish, amphibians and other wildlife would be enormous, posing severe consequences for the economy as well as the environment.

"Thankfully, Republican, Democratic and Independent members of Congress have joined in an effort to ensure the integrity of one of the most successful environmental laws on the books. The legislation they introduced today, "The Clean Water Authority Restoration Act of 2003," would reaffirm full protection for our streams, wetlands and other waters as Congress intended three decades ago when it originally passed the law."

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.