The Michigan Messenger
House bill would restore Clean Water Act protections...Eartha Jane Melzer
Reps. John Dingell (D-Dearborn) and Vern Ehlers (R-Grand Rapids), together with Rep. James Oberstar (D-MN) have introduced a House bill that would restore Clean Water Act protections weakened by recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions and guidance from the Bush administration.
America’s Commitment to Clean Water Act (H.R. 5088), introduced Wednesday, will legislatively override the effect of decisions that removed protections from millions of acres of “isolated” wetlands and lakes, intermittently flowing streams, and wetlands adjacent to these streams.
In a decision in the 2006 case of Rapanos v. United States the U.S. Supreme Court concluded that regulatory authority under the Clean Water Act should extend only to “relatively permanent, standing or continuously flowing bodies of water” connected to traditional navigable waters, and to “wetlands with a continuous surface connection to” such relatively permanent waters.
In response to this decision the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency came up with new guidance for how to determine whether a wetland was subject to regulation. This guidance has created confusion, resulted in legal battles, and complicated the permitting process.
Great Lakes environmental groups are cheering the introduction of the new water legislation.
“Reinstating clean water protections to U.S. wetlands, lakes and streams is a vital component of Great Lakes restoration and economic recovery,” Jeff Skelding, national campaign director of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition said in a statement, “Millions of people will benefit from the swift passage of this bill.”
According to the coalition:
Wetlands provide essential services for people. Healthy wetlands supply and recharge drinking water; improve water quality; prevent erosion; provide habitat for wildlife, waterfowl, and fish; and support multi-billion dollar hunting, fishing, bird-watching and boating opportunities in the Great Lakes states. One acre of wetlands, according to researchers, provides $10,573 of ecosystem services.
111th Congress 2D Session