Clean Water Rule - TU opposes SR12 and other similar measures

PDF icon170131_TU Letter re CWRule - S.Res_.12.pdf

 

Re:  Trout Unlimited (TU) opposes legislation that would undermine the Clean Water Rule (Rule).

 

TU’s 150,000 members nationwide work to conserve, protect and restore the nation’s trout and salmon fisheries and their watersheds.  Our members give back to the resource they love by investing dollars and volunteer hours to conserve streams and rivers.  We strongly oppose Senate Resolution 12, and other bills, that would undermine the Clean Water Act and vacate the final Clean Water Rule, which revises the definition of “waters of the United States” in a manner that is both legally and scientifically sound.

 

We agree with Senate Resolution 12’s premise that the Clean Water Act is “one of the most important laws in the United States and has led to decades of successful environmental improvements.”  We also agree with the Resolutions’ second point that the Clean Water Act is founded on the principle of cooperative federalism “under which the Federal Government and State and local governments all have a role in protecting water resources,” with States retaining their authority “to allocate quantities of water within [their] jurisdiction.”

 

However, the fundamental flaw in this Resolution is that it fails to recognize the key principle that Congress understood when it passed the 1972 Clean Water Act: that water flows downhill and that the success of the Act in maintaining and restoring the nation’s waters depends upon the Act’s ability to control pollution “at its source;” upstream in the small streams and wetlands that flow downstream through communities to our major lakes, rivers, and bays. 

 

For decades following the passage of the Act, through Republican and Democratic administrations alike, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers have defined the “Waters of the United States” broadly to include virtually all tributary streams and most wetlands.  This broad regulatory definition was upheld as consistent with the Clean Water Act and its legislative history.

 

It was not until splintered Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006 that this broad definition of waters of the United States was called into question.  The Supreme Court decisions raised questions regarding the scope of waters of the U.S., but failed to answer them, causing widespread uncertainty and wasteful litigation for more than a decade.

 

Supreme Court justices and stakeholders on all sides agreed that the regulatory definition of “waters of the United States” must be revised to address the Court’s questions and ensure consistency with the law and the science.  For some four years, the EPA and Corps conducted an exhaustive public rulemaking, backed by an ambitious, peer-reviewed scientific synthesis.  The 2015 final “Clean Water Rule” represents a once-in-a- generation final rule that is critical to the effective implementation of the 1972 Clean Water Act, maintaining clear protections over those waters with a “significant nexus” to traditionally navigable waters, in accordance with the Act and Supreme Court precedent, while respecting the rights of the states and private landowners.

 

Senate Resolution 12 asks Senators to buy into a premise that is simply untrue: The 2015 Clean Water Rule does not expand Clean Water Act jurisdiction beyond its historic scope.  In fact, the Clean Water Rule expressly excludes many ditches and certain other water features for the first time.  Nor does the Clean Water Rule undermine longstanding Clean Water Act exemptions.  In fact, the Rule expressly preserves these exemptions.

 

This resolution seeks to overturn this rule that finally resolves longstanding confusion and debate, promotes clarity and efficiency for regulatory programs promoting river health, and preserves longstanding protections for farmers, ranchers, and foresters.  It locks in the current state of jurisdictional confusion and offers no constructive path forward for regulatory clarity or clean water.

 

As you consider anew the positions you will take in support of clean water for all Americans, we urge you to consider the following facts:

 

  • The Clean Water Rule clearly restores longstanding protections for millions of wetlands and headwater streams that contribute to the drinking water of 1 in 3 Americans, protect communities from flooding, and provide essential fish and wildlife habitat that supports a robust outdoor recreation economy.

 

  • The sport fishing industry alone accounts for 828,000 jobs, nearly $50 billion annually in retail sales, and an economic impact of about $115 billion every year that relies on access to clean water.  The Clean Water Rule will translate directly to an improved bottom line for America’s outdoor industry.

 

  • A 2015 poll found that 83 percent of sportsmen and women, from across the political spectrum, think the Clean Water Act should apply to smaller streams and wetlands, as the new rule directs.

 

  • Millions of Americans, including businesses that depend on clean water, support the Clean Water Rule and are eager to reap its benefits.  The agencies engaged in a very transparent and thorough multi-year rulemaking process that included over 400 stakeholder meetings and an extended public comment period that produced over one million comments.  Nearly 900,000 members of the public commented in support of the Clean Water Rule.

 

  • Opponents claiming the Clean Water Rule goes too far and protects water too much, or somehow requires further public vetting, will have their day in court.  Meanwhile, conservationists across the nation are steadfast in our support for the Clean Water Rule and confident that the Clean Water Rule will withstand challenges saying it protects our water too much.

 

We strongly support a Senate Resolution that confirms clean water for all Americans as a national priority.  However, that resolution must reflect the fundamental premise that we – federal, state, and local governments working in concert - cannot succeed as a nation in maintaining and restoring the quality and health of our waters unless we maintain the Act’s ability to control pollution “at its source,” upstream in the small streams and wetlands that flow downstream through communities to our lakes, rivers, and bays. 

 

The Clean Water Act has always been about restoring and maintaining the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters.  It is bedrock support for America’s more than 40 million hunters and anglers and for the 117 million Americans whose drinking water depends on healthy headwater streams.  America’s hunters and anglers cannot afford to have Congress undermine effective Clean Water Act safeguards, leaving communities and valuable fish and wildlife habitat at risk indefinitely.  We thank all of the members of Congress who stand with America’s sportsmen and women to defend Clean Water Act protections and block attempts to derail the Clean Water Rule, and we ask you to reject S.Res.12 and any other legislative action against the rule that may follow this year.

 

Thank you for your consideration.

 

Sincerely,

 

Steve Moyer

Vice President, Government Affairs

Trout Unlimited

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