Oberstar Introduces America’s Commitment to Clean Water Act

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010 at 7:14 am

Washington DC – Congressman Jim Oberstar today introduced a bill that would restore the authority of the Clean Water Act after the law was “handcuffed” by U.S. Supreme Court decisions.

America’s Commitment to Clean Water Act (H.R. 5088) will reverse two decisions the high court made in 2001 and 2006 that have thrown the nation’s clean water programs into turmoil. The rulings cut back on the authority of the Clean Water Act to regulate lakes, rivers, streams and wetlands across the U.S and created confusion and uncertainty for communities, developers, and agricultural interests.  They also placed at risk the nation’s ability to restore, protect, and maintain water quality and the water-related environment.

“We have 10,000 lakes in Minnesota; 40 percent of all the lakes and streams covered by the Clean Water Act remain in danger or polluted,” said Oberstar.  “I don’t want 4,000 lakes in Minnesota to be exposed to the danger of pollution.”

In 1972, Oberstar was a staff assistant to Minnesota Congressman John Blatnik, one of the chief authors of the Clean Water Act, and personally worked on the landmark law.  “There was never any doubt that the Clean Water Act was to have broad authority,” said Oberstar.  “There were no limits on the number of streams, lakes or shorelines to be protected; it just said ‘the waters of the United States.’ The Supreme Court has greatly limited the scope of the act and greatly confused the application of existing law.”

Oberstar introduced a similar bill in the previous Congress which had wide support from over 300 environmental, sporting and industry groups.  However, that legislation was stalled by a veto threat from the Bush White House.  A number of other organizations also expressed concerns that the legislation would extend the scope of the Clean Water Act, instead of simply restoring its original authority.  The current bill includes modifications that will address those concerns.  “Simply put, if it was not regulated before 2001, it will not be regulated with the enactment of this legislation,” said Oberstar.

Oberstar expects to begin committee work on the bill before June and expects the legislation to win passage with bipartisan support on the House floor.  A similar bill is expected to be considered by the full Senate this summer.

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