09 Apr 2008 Representatives of 53 Organizations Warn Congress, Public about Oberstar/Feingold Clean Water Restoration Act
Farm Bureaus, Manufacturers, Sportsmen, Taxpayer Advocates, Think-Tanks and Others Express Concern About Expansion of Federal Power
Washington, D.C.: A letter signed by representatives of over 53 organizations expressing grave concerns about the Oberstar/Feingold Clean Water Restoration Act, or CWRA, is being delivered to Congress this week.
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, chaired by Barbara Boxer (D-CA), has scheduled a hearing on CWRA for April 9. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, chaired by CWRA sponsor James Oberstar (D-MN), has a hearing scheduled April 16.
The letter says CWRA sponsors are wrong in claiming CWRA would restore the original intent of the 1972 Clean Water Act. Instead, the letter says, CWRA would greatly expand its scope.
The letter is signed by representatives of nineteen state farm bureaus. Other organizations with representatives signing include the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the Public Lands Council, the National Association of Wheat Growers, the Family Farm Alliance, the Family Water Alliance, the National Water Resources Association, the Blue Ribbon Coalition, the Alabama Farmers Federation, the Citizens Alliance for Responsible Energy, the California Land Institute, and very many public policy advocacy groups and think-tanks.
“The Clean Water Restoration Act would not restore the original intent of the Clean Water Act, but significantly expand it. It would expand federal clean water regulations to often dry land by re-defining dry lake beds, intermittent streams and, possibly, even tiny backyard fish ponds as ‘waters of the United States,'” said David Ridenour, vice president of the National Center for Public Policy Research, which organized the letter. “This expansive federal power goes far beyond what Congress intended when it passed the original Clean Water Act in 1972.”
The letter also says CWRA would increase confusion within the already highly-litigated question of what waters are subject to regulation. Although the bill itself greatly expands federal power, as Congress’ authority to regulate waters rests on the Commerce Clause, those waters that have no impact on interstate commerce would be immune from the authority of the Act. Knowing which waters meet the Commerce Clause test could be nearly impossible for the average landowner, however. Many cases would be settled only after expensive and protracted litigation.
“Rather than eliminate the ambiguity of the original law, CWRA would codify it. Instead of providing clear, predictable standards of regulation, CWRA would punt these decisions to the courts,” said Ridenour.
This letter follows another letter, signed by 100 conservationists, family advocacy groups, civil rights leaders, sportsmen organizations, seniors advocates, think-tanks and taxpayer action groups in October 2007, expressing nearly identical concerns about CWRA. As hearings in the House and Senate about CWRA neared, this second letter was organized in response to demand from organizations concerned that the public, and many legislators, remain unaware of serious problems within this legislation.
The letter and list of signers is available online at www.nationalcenter.org/ CWRA_Letter2_040908.pdf. The October letter can be found at www.nationalcenter.org/Clean_Water_Restoration_Act_Letter_100907.pdf.
The National Center for Public Policy Research is a non-partisan organization located on Capitol Hill and established in 1982.