Oberstar and Feingold Bait-and-Switch: Deceptively-Named “Clean Water Restoration Act” Would Expand, Not Restore Federal Powers

Washington, D.C.A letter signed by over 100 people representing diverse interests and millions of Americans is being delivered to Congress this morning contending that the Clean Water Restoration Act (CWRA) would achieve the opposite of what its sponsors claim.

The bill, sponsored by James Oberstar in the House and Russell Feingold in the Senate, was introduced ostensibly to restore protections under the Clean Water Act lost due to Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006 and to clarify which waters would be subject to federal jurisdiction.

But according to the coalition, the legislation would “achieve the opposite: It would expand the scope of the Clean Water Act far beyond its original intent while increasing confusion over what is and isn’t to be protected… [and] runs counter to the principle of accountable government as it seeks to transfer legislative power from elected officials” to the courts.”

The coalition effort, spearheaded by the Washington, DC-based National Center for Public Policy Research, is signed by conservationists, family advocacy groups, civil rights leaders, sportsmen organizations, seniors advocates, think tanks and taxpayer action groups, among others.

Among the signers: John Berthoud, the late president of the National Taxpayers Union; G. Ray Arnett, former president and a long-time director of the National Wildlife Federation; Jim Handley, Executive Director of the Florida Cattlemen’s Association; Former U.S. Senator Malcolm Wallop (R-WY), Chairman of Frontiers of Freedom; Niger Innis, National Spokesman for the Congress of Racial Equality, one of the nation’s oldest civil rights organizations; Adrian T. Moore, Vice President of Research of the Reason Foundation; Chris Derry, President of the Bluegrass Institute; and Linda Runbeck, President of the American Property Coalition, an organization founded by former U.S. Senator Rod Grams (R-MN) which has led a national education effort on the CWRA.

“The ‘Clean Water Restoration Act’ is classic bait-and-switch,” said David Ridenour, Vice President of The National Center for Public Policy Research.  “Congressman Oberstar and Senator Feingold advertise that their initiative is designed to reassert congressional intent and add clarity to the Clean Water Act.  But that’s not the product they’re actually selling.  Indeed, the Clean Water Restoration Act would be an unprecedented expansion of federal power.”

The CWRA would, according to the letter, give the federal government the power to regulate all interstate and intrastate waters, including non-navigable waters.  In so doing, the bill would exceed the original scope of the Clean Water Act and likely violate the Constitution.  Non-navigable waters are unlikely to fall under the Constitution’s commerce clause.

“This bill would extend federal authority to literally all waters in America right down to intermittently wet drainage ditches,” said Ridenour. “But its reach wouldn’t end at water’s edge.  It also regulates ‘activities affecting these waters’ providing an enormous opening for regulation of dry land, too.”

To view the letter, go to http://www.nationalcenter.org/Clean_Water_Restoration_Act_Letter_100907.pdf.

The National Center for Public Policy Research, founded in 1982, is a non-partisan, non-profit educational foundation based in Washington, D.C.

The National Center for Public Policy Research is a communications and research foundation supportive of a strong national defense and dedicated to providing free market solutions to today’s public policy problems. We believe that the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility provide the greatest hope for meeting the challenges facing America in the 21st century.