House going after the Clean Water Rule ... Again

By Steve Moyer

This Wednesday (Jan. 13) the House of Representatives is expected to take another crack at denying Americans the chance to make our water cleaner. This is the third attempt by the House during this Congress to derail the EPA/Army Corps of Engineers Clean Water Rule.  

Enough already.

In the FY16 Omnibus Appropriations Bill passed just before Christmas, Congress wisely decided not to derail the rule that will help the federal government do a better job with the foremost of the fundamentals – deciding what is, and what is not, a waterway afforded protection by America’s favorite natural resource law, the Clean Water Act. The failed effort to place a rider to derail the rule via the Omnibus was yet another in a long line of attempts to undermine it.  

Now comes a House vote on Senate Joint Resolution 22. This joint resolution is an extraordinary and radical action to overturn the Clean Water Rule. By using the Congressional Review Act, this joint resolution would not only wipe out the final Clean Water Rule, but would also prohibit any substantially similar rule in the future. It locks in the current state of jurisdictional confusion and offers no constructive path forward for regulatory clarity or for ensuring protections for our nation’s waters. America’s hunters and anglers cannot afford to have Congress undermine effective Clean Water Act safeguards, leaving communities and valuable fish and wildlife habitat at risk indefinitely. 

American sportsmen and women support the Clean Water Rule. We understand the importance of the rule when it comes to protecting headwater streams and valuable wetlands, which provide essential benefits for drinking water, flood control, nutrient filtration and not the least of which, for the trout, ducks and other wildlife so valued by sportsmen and women. Our waterways support a robust outdoor recreation economy. The sport fishing industry alone accounts for 828,000 jobs, nearly $50 billion annually in retail sales, and an economic impact of about $115 billion every year. 

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Click here to read the sportsmen's letter

A recent National Wildlife Federation poll of sportsmen and women found that more than 80 percent of respondents favored the Clean Water Rule. More than 800,000 Americans supported the rule during the public comment period. Sportsmen and women of all types, from all states supported the rule.

It’s not hard to understand. Americans want more clean water. Not less. 

Clarifying what waters and activities are—and are not—jurisdictional under the Clean Water Act is always a very tough job, under any administration, any congress, or any decade since the Clean Water Act was established.  But, just because it is difficult, doesn’t mean it is not worth doing.  The Clean Water Rule provides much needed clarity that will help minimize disputes and make the job of protecting our waters more efficient and reliable.

The Clean Water Rule should not be gutted by Congress, and should be allowed to get its full day in court. When the procedural steps are complete and the merits are addressed, we believe the rule will prevail in court. As its critics can attest, it is not perfect. But it is legally and scientifically sound, and it is good for clean water in America. 

I urge TU members and other sportsmen and women to contact your representative in the House and urge him/her to oppose the Senate Joint Resolution 22 that would undermine the Clean Water Act.

Steve Moyer is the vice president for government affairs at Trout Unlimited. 

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