The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Joan Mulhern, Earthjustice, (202) 667-4500

Senate Committee Approves Urgently Needed Clean Water Legislation

Clean Water Restoration Act necessary to protect all streams, rivers and lakes


Important clean water legislation advanced today after a Senate
committee debate and vote. By a vote of 12-7, the Senate Environment
and Public Works Committee approved a compromise version of the bill
introduced by Senators Baucus (MT), Klobuchar (MN), and Boxer (CA). The
original Clean Water Restoration Act (S. 787) was introduced by Senator Russ Feingold in April.

The legislation reinstates the power of the Clean Water Act to
protect all "waters of the United States;" the law was weakened due to
two recent muddled Supreme Court rulings.

The following statement is by Joan Mulhern, senior legislative counsel for Earthjustice:

"As Americans set out on summer vacations along our nation's lakes
and rivers, the Senate Environment and Public Works committee is
appropriately working to make sure these water bodies are kept clean
and safe. Monday, June 22nd marks the 40th anniversary of the polluted
Cuyahoga River catching fire - the event that galvanized our country's
leaders to pass the Clean Water Act. By supporting the Clean Water
Restoration Act, Congress has an opportunity to honor our country's
legacy by guaranteeing something like this never happens again.

"For decades the Clean Water Act protected all streams, rivers and
lakes from destruction -- until 2001, when protections for thousands of
water bodies were called into question by the Supreme Court. Polluters
are seizing on this ambiguity in the law, so the nation can not afford
to wait longer to fix this problem.

"The measure passed today was a compromise, but it was an important
first step in the process that we hope will quickly lead to permanently
fixing the Clean Water Act, one of our country's most important
environmental laws. We applaud the work of the Senate EPW Committee to
address this issue.

"Unfortunately, some Senators on the committee, including Senators
Inhofe (OK), Barrasso (WY), Vitter (LA), and others actually tried to
exempt every stream and wetland in the country from the Clean Water
Act. This extreme, anti-clean water position in the 21st century is
shocking, especially considering that the Clean Water Act was passed
unanimously in the Senate in 1972.

"Today's committee vote is a necessary action towards assuring that
all of America's waters will be protected from destruction, pollution
and degradation. We pledge to work with EPW Senators and all members of
Congress to support the strongest possible bill, guaranteeing these our
nation's waterways remain protected."

Earthjustice is a non-profit public interest law firm dedicated to protecting the magnificent places, natural resources, and wildlife of this earth, and to defending the right of all people to a healthy environment. We bring about far-reaching change by enforcing and strengthening environmental laws on behalf of hundreds of organizations, coalitions and communities.