American Rivers • BlueGreen Alliance • Clean Water Action • Earthjustice • Environment America • League of Conservation Voters • Natural Resources Defense Council • Prairie Rivers Network • Sierra Club • Southern Environmental Law Center
May 15, 2015 (Download the letter here)
The undersigned organizations, and our millions of members and supporters, oppose S. 1140, the so-called “Federal Water Quality Protection Act,” which will be the subject of a hearing in the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water, and Wildlife, on May 19, 2015.
Contrary to its title, this legislation attacks clean water protections. In fact, this legislation would halt an ongoing rulemaking to clarify and restore Clean Water Act protections for countless water bodies, including streams that contribute to the drinking water of one in three Americans. The Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency are close to completing their Clean Water Rule, but S. 1140 would stop this important, scientifically rigorous rule before the public has even had the chance to see the finished product.
The agencies undertook a very transparent and thorough process in developing the Clean Water Rule, holding more than 400 stakeholder meetings and providing more than 200 days for public comment on the proposal, and conducting a detailed and open analysis and peer review of the science on which the rule is based. All stakeholders, including the over 800,000 members of the public who commented in support of these protections, should be given the opportunity to review the final rule.
This troubling legislation blows up the current rulemaking and forces the agencies to go back and solicit input from stakeholders they have already consulted, consider factors they have already considered, and then propose a rule (as they have already done). The Clean Water Rule has essentially been in the making for more than a decade and stakeholders from all sides of the issue have asked for a rule to provide certainty and reliability in the permitting process for waters covered by the Clean Water Act. There is nothing to gain by forcing the agencies to repeat years of analysis and consultation concerning this rule. Rather, this bill is simply a last-minute and thinly-veiled attempt at blocking these crucial protections and leaving our nation’s waterways at continued risk of pollution and destruction.
This legislation would not only halt the current rulemaking process, but also would create new impediments to protecting important waters and creates far more confusion than it resolves. The legislation would make it harder to protect streams and wetlands and would outright direct the agencies to exclude so-called “isolated waters” from being covered by the Clean Water Act. All of these new limitations on the Act’s coverage ignore the copious scientific evidence revealing the important role of headwaters and seasonal and rain-dependent waters on downstream water quality. The bill also includes new vague provisions that would add to the confusion, rather than clarify which waters are protected.
This legislation is also a waste of taxpayer money. It requires the agencies to jump through numerous procedural hoops as a new rule is created – to no evident purpose. The legislation also directs the agencies to map all protected waters in the country, even though most water bodies never need a determination of their status under the law; that typically becomes necessary only when a discharger seeks to release pollutants into water bodies.
Finally, the legislation lays out a time frame that is all but certain not to be met, thereby setting the agencies up to fail.
For all of these reasons, we oppose this legislation.
Clean Water Action
League of Conservation Voters
Natural Resources Defense Council
Prairie Rivers Network
Southern Environmental Law Center