NRDC Calls on Bush Administration to Stop Its Attack on Clean Water Act

Senate Celebrates the Law's 30th Anniversary; NRDC Urges Senate to Protect It

WASHINGTON (October 8, 2002) -- Today, while the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee celebrates the 30th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, the Bush administration is quietly trying to eviscerate it, according to NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). The law is facing the most serious threat in decades from a series of Bush administration proposals that, if not challenged, will remove the regulatory tools that have made it such a success in cleaning up American waterways.

"While we join the Senate in celebrating the public health and environmental benefits the law has afforded our communities, states, and nation as a whole, we need to protect the integrity of the Clean Water Act, not just laud it," said Nancy Stoner, director of NRDC's Clean Water Project.

Just last week, the Environmental Protection Agency released its biennial Water Quality Inventory, which found that U.S. waterways are getting dirtier, not cleaner. From 1998 to 2000, the percentage of polluted rivers rose from 35 percent to 39 percent, the percentage of polluted estuaries jumped from 44 percent to 51 percent, and the percentage of polluted shorelines inched up from 12 percent to 14 percent. Beach closures and fish advisories also are increasing annually.

"Now is not the time to rest on our laurels," said Stoner. "We will need to mount a major effort just to protect the Clean Water Act safeguards that we already have. Polluters are lining up to get exemptions from existing requirements. The public is going to have to fight for the clean water we love."

Among other things, the Bush administration proposals would:

  • Remove Clean Water Act protection entirely from some waterways and wetlands that have been protected by the law since 1975. It would be open season on filling, dredging and dumping waste into any water that is no longer covered by the act.

  • Authorize discharges of raw and inadequately treated sewage into our waterways, where it would spread waterborne diseases.

  • Substitute the "no net loss" of wetlands pledge that was adopted by President George H.W. Bush with policies allowing wetlands to be destroyed and replaced with undeveloped upland areas that do not perform the same functions as wetlands, such as flood control, groundwater recharge, water filtration, and wildlife habitat.

  • Delay and derail the Clean Water Act's principal program for cleaning up polluted waters -- the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) program.

"The Bush administration's efforts to roll back decades of progress in cleaning up the nation's waters must be stopped," said Stoner. "NRDC urges the Senate to join with the public to oppose these efforts to weaken the Clean Water Act."

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.

Related NRDC Pages

The Bush Record: Water & Oceans