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April 2, 2009
1:51 PM

CONTACT: US Senator Russ Feingold

Zach Lowe (202) 224-8657

Feingold Reintroduces Effort to Protect the Drinking Water of Over 100 Million Americans

Only Congressional Action Can Stop Roll Back of Clean Water Act

WASHINGTON - April 2 - U.S. Senator Russ Feingold reintroduced legislation today to restore protections for waterways throughout the country that impact the drinking water of more than 100 million Americans.  Feingold's Clean Water Restoration Act (CWRA) would ensure protections for rivers, streams and wetlands, which were long protected under the Clean Water Act (CWA), but are now in jeopardy of losing protections as a result of two recent Supreme Court cases.  Since those decisions, more and more waters continue to be stripped of protections previously provided by the CWA, which became law in 1972.  Feingold is joined by twenty-three cosponsors including Senator Barbara Boxer, Chairman of the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, and Senator Ben Cardin, Chairman of the EPW Water and Wildlife Subcommittee.

"The choice before us today is simple but urgent: If you support the Clean Water Act, you must also support this bill to restore the protections of the Clean Water Act," Feingold said.  "Every day Congress fails to reaffirm Clean Water Act protections, more and more waters are stripped of their protections, jeopardizing the drinking water of millions of Americans, as well as our nation's wildlife habitats, recreational pursuits, agricultural and industrial uses, and public health.  I am pleased the bill has such broad support from governors, attorneys general, farming groups, outdoor recreation groups and others who recognize the great danger of leaving our waters and wetlands unprotected." 

The CWA was enacted in 1972 to clean up and protect our nation's waters, including isolated wetlands and headwater streams, which are critical to our environment and economy.  However, two controversial, closely decided U.S. Supreme Court cases, Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County v. Army Corps of Engineers in 2001 and Rapanos v. United States in 2006, greatly reduced the scope of the CWA, undermining decades of clean water protections.  The decisions have also led to significant confusion, permitting delays and increased costs caused by uncertainty about which waters remain protected after the court decisions.

The president and members of his administration have spoken in favor of restoring the scope of the CWA.  During the campaign, President Obama's campaign stated that if elected, he would support and sign into law legislation that effectively restores the historical scope of the CWA.  During her nomination hearings, Lisa Jackson, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator, stated that if confirmed, she would assist Congress with legislation to clarify the scope of the CWA.  And in April 2008, Carol Browner, who served as the EPA Administrator under President Clinton and who currently works on climate change issues in the Obama administration, testified in support of Feingold's legislation. 

"Farmers were the first conservationists and they will continue to lead in protecting United States waters, which is why the Wisconsin Farmers Union is pleased to support Senator Feingold's reintroduction of the Clean Water Restoration Act," said Sue Beitlich, President of the Wisconsin Farmers Union.  "Recent court rulings have rolled back the protection of bodies of water and farmers' livelihoods depend on these basic protections.  This legislation is a prime example of economically-sustainable environmental policy.  It will not force farmers to stop farming on wetlands that have been utilized for years, nor alter the regulation of agricultural activities.  WFU believes that wetlands that have not been farmed should not be used for any additional agricultural activities.  And harming sensitive, ecologically important waterways-the lifeblood of our profession-is and never should be a viable option in agriculture.  It's best to take a common sense approach - farm on what's been used, as needed, and leave the rest alone." 

"The County of Door thanks Senator Feingold for continuing to lead the effort to restore Clean Water Act protections for small streams and isolated wetlands," said Michael J. Serpe, Administrator of County of Door (Wisconsin).  "Restoring Clean Water Act protections to all our streams and wetlands protected prior to Supreme Court decisions has taken on greater significance as counties across the nation are dealing with massive flooding and lack of clean drinking water.  On top of that, until Congress takes action, we are further burdened by new threats of unregulated industrial pollution to our streams drinking water sources, and confusing permitting tests and processes that contribute to delays and strained resources at all levels of government as we grapple with the uncertainty created by the courts."

"The Wisconsin Wildlife Federation applauds Senator Feingold and the Clean Water Restoration Act's cosponsors for leading the fight to protect America's waters," said George Meyer, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation.  "Wisconsin sportsmen and women are very concerned with the loss of fish and wildlife habitat due to the rollback of Clean Water protections. Congress must move quickly to restore these long-standing protections for wetlands, lakes and streams."

The legislation is cosponsored by Senators Boxer, Cardin, Brown, Cantwell, Carper, Dodd, Durbin, Gillibrand, Kerry, Kohl, Lautenberg, Leahy, Levin, Lieberman, Menendez, Merkley, Reed, Sanders, Schumer, Shaheen, Stabenow, Whitehouse, and Wyden.  A complete list of endorsements is available here.



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