As the Clean Water Act (CWA) inches closer to its 40th anniversary in U.S. law and policy, a series of proposed regulations threaten to hamper the level of protection certain waterways receive.
According to theU.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Clean Water Act, “establishes the basic structure for regulating discharges of pollutants into the waters of the United States and regulating quality standards for surface waters” – oh, and protects all the waters of the United States. The CWA implemented pollution control programs and wastewater standards; making it unlawful to dispose contaminants in waters without permits.
The CWA doesn’t have a clear list of regulated waterways and constantly fights lawsuits that threaten water protection, but recently politicians have been taking aim at the vague CWA definition.
Senators John Barrasso (R-WY) and Dean Heller (R-NV) proposed an amendment to the Fiscal 2012 Energy and Water Appropriations bill (H.R. 2354); preventing the Army Corps of Engineers from clarifying the extent to which wetlands and intermittent streams are protected under the Clean Water Act. This proposed bill will deny protection to approximately one-fifth of the country’s wetlands and nearly two million miles of streams.According to thethe House approved a similar amendment and now the final votes rest in the hands of Senate majority leader, Harry Reid and Democratic colleagues.
The Energy and Water Appropriations Bill, H.R. 2354, attacks the Obama administration’s April 2011 proposed list of guidelines that clarify waterway protections – also insisting the guidelines would achieve permanent regulation. Of course, there was outcry from non-supporters. Well, the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers were prohibited from carrying out the guidelines by the House; and, the proposed Senate bill will permanently prohibit the guidelines.
So, why all the fuss over clarifying the CWA?
If Barrasso and Heller’s proposed bill is passed, about 20 percent of the wetlands in the U.S. would not be protected under the CWA – allowing toxin discharges to flow through those unprotected waters; thus, affecting more than 117 million Americans that get water from these unprotected waterways.