Dingell, Slaughter, Moran Call on EPA to Protect Waterways

Dec 16, 2013 Issues: Energy and Environment

Washington, D.C. – Today, Congressman John D. Dingell (D-MI12), Congresswoman Louise M. Slaughter (D-NY25), and Congressman Jim Moran (D-VA08) called on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to expedite the rulemaking process to clarify the protection of waterways under the Clean Water Act.

In a letter, co-signed by 86 of their fellow House colleagues, the three urge the EPA to propose a rule to restore protections for all waterways, citing recent Supreme Court decisions that have created significant uncertainty about federal jurisdiction. These uncertainties have left nearly 60 percent of our country’s streams, at least 20 million acres of wetlands, and the drinking water for 117 million Americans at increased risk of pollution.

“As an original author of the Clean Water Act, I have worked for decades to see to it that this important legislation is not only properly enforced, but also used to its absolute best potential,” said Rep. Dingell. “It is my hope that EPA will take the necessary steps to prioritize the rulemaking process, restore these important protections, and clearly define how to ensure that our waterways are free from pollution.”

“The Great Lakes system is one of Upstate New York’s biggest economic engines benefiting our residents and one of our crown jewels when attracting tourists to our area,” said Rep. Slaughter. “Countless Americans depend on the Great Lakes and other waterways for their livelihood and for recreation, and I urge the EPA to pass a rule expanding the Clean Water Act in order to better protect our nation’s water resources from pollution.”

“Millions of Americans rely on healthy headwaters and seasonal streams for their drinking water needs.  These waters are most at risk of pollution and degradation,” said Rep. Moran.  “Clarifying which waterways receive protection under the CWA puts the federal and state governments in a better position to protect the health and well-being of millions of Americans.”

Full text of the letter can be found below:

The Honorable Gina McCarthy
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20460

Dear Administrator McCarthy:

As members of the United States House of Representatives, we urge you to swiftly propose a rule to restore protections to all of our nation’s waterways.  For the sake of our communities and the prospects of having waterways clean enough to swim in, fish from, and drink from, we must have a rule that protects all waters of the United States under the Clean Water Act, and we need your leadership to make that vision a reality.

Last year we celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, which has been one of the most significant environmental laws in our nation’s history.  As was said on the floor of the House in 1972, “the conference bill defines the term ‘navigable waters’ broadly for water quality purposes.  It means all ‘the waters of the United States’ in a geographical sense. It does not mean the ‘navigable waters of the United States’ in the technical sense as we sometimes see in some laws.”   This definition protected our country’s precious waterways by safeguarding our drinking water, alleviating flooding conditions, providing recreational opportunities, maintaining fish and wildlife habitat, and promoting a healthy economy.

However, two Supreme Court decisions – Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Rapanos v. the United States – have created significant uncertainty regarding federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act.  According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), these decisions have left almost 60 percent of our country’s streams, at least 20 million acres of wetlands, and the drinking water for 117 million Americans at increased risk of pollution.

We are encouraged by EPA’s commitment to follow sound science through their recent science report, which illustrates the significant relationship between tributaries and wetlands and the larger bodies of water into which they feed.  EPA must continue to move this process forward swiftly and efficiently to prevent more pollution from entering our waterways.

As you have said, “We must ensure that water – so critical to human health, quality of life, and economic activity – is protected from dangerous contaminants, including new, emerging ones.”  We call on EPA to continue to prioritize a rulemaking to restore protections to all of our waterways.  We stand ready to work with you and your Administration to help America on a path to a future where all our waterways are protected from dangerous pollution.  Thank you for your support and leadership.


            Rep. John D. Dingell (MI-12)

            Rep. Louise M. Slaughter (NY-25)

            Rep. Jim Moran (VA-08)