- WEB EXCLUSIVE
- PE COFFEEHAUS
One of the more controversial sections of the CWA was a definition of what waters were controllable under the law. The act gave the EPA authority to regulate all navigable waters of the United States. The argument has been over what constitutes navigable water. Over time, the interpretation has been quite liberal as any water that connects in any way to a river, stream or ditch has been considered navigable water. In the past, there have been struggles over some water bodies as the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers both claimed jurisdiction. In the end, they worked together to regulate some waters such as wetlands.
Well, Congress is trying to make the controversy finally go away and I don't think our readers are going to like it.
Senators Russ Feingold, Barbara Boxer, Benjamin Cardin and 20 others introduced S 787 Restoration of the Clean Water Act in the 111th Congress as requested by the Obama Administration earlier this year. They claimed that loopholes established by the Bush Administration needed to be closed.
Perhaps one of the more glaring changes is the dropping of the word navigable from the rules. That would certainly end the controversy over its meaning but the consequences would have far-reaching impacts on every business and farmer in the United States. The immediate affect would be that it authorizes the EPA to regulate any water in any condition anywhere.
Environmental activists downplay the impact by saying the EPA will not use the authority to manage every puddle of water as they just don't have the time. However, consider that they don't really need the time; they only need to require business to take the time. This could eventually tie up any business or farmer in the land.
Let's say business ABC wants to expand. The business uses large trucks to transport goods on and off their property. We all know that such activity can result in potholes and puddles on the property that can collect water and drippings from the vehicles. Let's say a local group wants to block the expansion for whatever reason. Potentially, the puddles should be sampled and controlled if not permitted before any expansion can be considered. All businesses could potentially be required to establish groundwater-monitoring routines around their facilities. That could include farmers as well.
To see for yourselves, go to http://www.govtrack.us/congress/billtext.xpd?bill=s111-787 to read S 787. This bill has been silently moving towards completion while everyone is focused on other more visible issues such as health care or cap and trade. In ANY case, expect Congress to enact many sweeping environmental rules for the EPA to establish new regulations before the next election cycle. Meanwhile, the EPA is moving to find how far they can go without the rules to establish additional regulations for businesses.