CEOs Ask Senate to Protect Clean Water Act

The Honorable Barbara Mikulski Chair
Committee on Appropriations U.S. Senate

Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Richard C. Shelby Ranking Member
Committee on Appropriations U.S. Senate

Washington, DC 20515

June 16, 2014

The Honorable Dianne Feinstein
Chair, Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development
Committee on Appropriations
U.S. Senate
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Lamar Alexander
Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development
Committee on Appropriations
U.S. Senate
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chair Mikulski, Ranking Member Shelby, Chair Feinstein, and Ranking Member Alexander:

Sportsmen and women rely on clean water and healthy watersheds, and therefore our groups strongly support the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (the Corps) and Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposal to clarify and restore longstanding Clean Water Act protections for headwater streams and wetlands across the country. We are deeply concerned that some Senators might use deliberations on the Energy and Water Appropriations bill this week to assault the Nation’s bedrock clean water law by trying to gut the agencies’ “waters of the United States” proposal. On June 3, 2014, we and 12 other sportsmen’s conservation groups, representing millions of hunters and anglers nationwide, wrote to you and urged you to reject such harmful riders (letter attached). We strongly urge you to use your leadership positions to stop any effort to derail the Corps and EPA’s proposal.

The Clean Water Act has been successful at improving water quality and stemming the tide of wetlands loss in every state. However, Clean Water Act safeguards for streams, lakes and wetlands have been eroding for over a decade because of a pair of Supreme Court decisions, Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook Cty. (SWANCC) v. Army Corps of Engineers (2001) and Rapanos v. United States (2006), which cast doubt on more than 30 years’ worth of Clean Water Act implementation.

As a result of the decisions, 60 percent of stream miles in the United States, which provide drinking water for more than 117 million Americans, are at increased risk of pollution and destruction. Wetlands are at risk as well. In fact, the rate of wetlands loss increased by 140 percent during the 2004-2009 period – the years immediately following the Supreme Court decisions. This is the first documented acceleration of wetland loss since the Clean Water Act was enacted more than 40 years ago during the Nixon administration.

There is widespread agreement that action is necessary to clear up the confusion caused by the SWANCC and Rapanos decisions. Stakeholders on all sides of the issue and the Supreme Court have called on the Corps and EPA to conduct a formal rulemaking to clearly define which waters the Act protects. Fortunately, the Administration is doing just that. On March 25, 2014, the Corps and EPA jointly proposed a rule for public comment.

The proposal makes a strong effort to more clearly define—better than ever before in the history of the law—what waters and activities are not regulated by the law. All activities currently exempted under current law are fully exempted under the proposal. Nobody, including the agencies, wants to regulate farmers’ ditches. Nobody, including the agencies, wants to regulate a neighbor’s birdbath. Contrary to the caricatures and hyperbole, the proposal is a worthy, science-based effort to provide the solid jurisdictional foundation of the law. Everyone who has a concern about the proposal should engage in the process to make it better. Gutting the proposal through the Fiscal Year 2015 appropriations process is the wrong approach.

America’s 47 million sportsmen rely on clean water for access to quality days in the field hunting and fishing. When wetlands are drained and filled and streams are polluted, we lose the ability to pursue our passions and pass them on to our children. Moreover, pollution and destruction of headwater streams and wetlands threaten America’s hunting and fishing economy – which accounts for over $200 billion in economic activity each year and 1.5 million jobs, supporting rural communities in particular.

Sportsmen conservationists have cheered the Senate Appropriations Committee’s strong work in recent years to restore ill-conceived budget cuts from the House, and reject harmful House riders, such as those regarding Clean Water Act jurisdiction. As you have done so well in the past, please stop the assault on the Clean Water Act and reject riders that would gut the Corps/EPA clean water proposal.

Scott Kovarovics, Executive Director, Izaak Walton League of America

Collin O’Mara, President and CEO, National Wildlife Federation

Chris Wood, President and CEO,  Trout Unlimited

Whit Fosburgh, President and CEO, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership 

 

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