I concur that S. 787, the Clean Water Restoration Act, is a good thing —
meant to get us back to pre-2001 conditions for Clean Water Act protections
and those murky Supreme Court decisions that the Bush administration’s
version of EPA used to misinterpret and avoid responsibility for clean water
First and most important, most ag/ranching activities have a statutory
exemption from the Clean Water Act. The CWRA explicitly incorporates those
exemptions. I’ can forward the list of ag exemptions. (Section 402
concerns point source discharges, Section 404 concerns filling wetlands and
streams.) If you’re exempt, the scope of waters protected by the Act
doesn’t matter. You’re exempt. You can see that some of the waters this
NCBA article says would be covered are exempt.
The compromise version of the bill is more explicit about the scope of the
law than Senator Feingold’s original bill. It is clear that only the waters
protected before the first bad Supreme Court decision in 2001 would be
covered. It does this by referencing two Federal Register notices from the
1980s that define the waters. They don’t include, for example, “depressions
filled with water,” as asserted in this article.
Finally, the “activities affecting these waters” language that so incites
some people is not even in the definition of “waters of the United States”
in the compromise bill; it’s only in the findings section In the original
bill, it was in the definition. They seem to make no distinction between
the original bill and the compromise passed out of committee.
If farmers and ranchers were ok with the Clean Water Act before the first
Supreme Court decision in 2001, they have no reason to fear the Clean Water
Restoration Act. The bill only restores what’s been lost. Problem is, the
Farm Bureau, NCBA, et al, want to roll back the law that was in place for 30
About Sharon Wilson
Sharon Wilson is considered a leading citizen expert on the impacts of shale oil and gas extraction. She is the go-to person whether it’s top EPA officials from D.C., national and international news networks, or residents facing the shock of eminent domain and the devastating environmental effects of natural gas development in their backyards.
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