March 27, 2023

U.S. House Votes to Prevent Clean Water Act Expansion

The U.S. House voted on Monday to approve legislation that would prevent the development of regulations expanding the scope of the federal Clean Water Act. Groups such as the National Pork Producers Council supported this action, stating that the regulations would be detrimental to agriculture.

Flood watersThe bill, HR 5078, entitled the “WOTUS Regulatory Overreach Protection Act” was sponsored by Rep. Steve Southerland (R-FL). WOTUS stands for Waters of the United States. The EPA wanted to expand the Clean Water Act to include the country’s water bodies, ditches, and gullies used by farmers for drainage and irrigation. Many farmers support the bill, stating that the EPA’s regulations are burdensome.

The Clean Water Act is one of the most successful laws in this country. Forty years ago, 2/3 of this country’s lakes and rivers could not be safely used for fishing or swimming. Now that trend has been reversed; 2/3 of this country’s lakes and rivers are safe for fishing and swimming.

Agricultural runoff pours millions of tons of nitrogen and  a year into public waters, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Phosphate and nitrate pollution causes algae blooms, such as the one that rendered Toledo’s water unusable last month, and creates dead zones in lakes and the sea such as the Chesapeake Bay.

Clean Water Action issued a statement about this bill. President and CEO Robert Wendelgass said, “though I can’t say I’m surprised, it is disappointing to see Congress choose polluters over protecting clean water. H.R. 5078 is a disaster. Not only does it stop the current rulemaking, which is supported by science and common sense, but it locks in the current confusion over which streams and wetlands are protected or not protected. And, as if disregarding science and common sense weren’t enough, H.R. 5078 silences the public.”

The White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy on September 8, 2014, stating that they strongly oppose H.R. 5078 and will veto it if it passes the Senate. According to the Statement, “H.R. 5078 would derail current efforts to clarify the scope of the CWA, hamstring future regulatory efforts, and create significant ambiguity regarding existing regulations and guidance. It would deny businesses and communities the regulatory certainty needed to invest in projects that rely on clean water.”

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