This has been all over the news today:
Essentially what has happened is that the court system has limited the power of the Clean Water Act- one of the most powerful regulatory tools we have.
“The court rulings causing these problems focused on language in the Clean Water Act that limited it to “the discharge of pollutants into the navigable waters” of the United States. For decades, “navigable waters” was broadly interpreted by regulators to include many large wetlands and streams that connected to major rivers.
But the two decisions suggested that waterways that are entirely within one state, creeks that sometimes go dry, and lakes unconnected to larger water systems may not be “navigable waters” and are therefore not covered by the act — even though pollution from such waterways can make its way into sources of drinking water.”
The trouble here is the language- litigators have successfully argued through the clause making a water “navigable” to get around pollution regulations. There is hope however:
“In the last two years, some members of Congress have tried to limit the impact of the court decisions by introducing legislation known as the Clean Water Restoration Act. It has been approved by a Senate committee but not yet introduced this session in the House. The legislation tries to resolve these problems by, in part, removing the word “navigable” from the law and restoring regulators’ authority over all waters that were regulated before the Supreme Court decisions.”
However, some argue that elimination of the term makes even puddles subject to regulation under the Act. Scary, but not true, nor feasible. Greater regulation tied to the elimination of the term from the law may come to stormwater and other runoff sources, but this is a good thing. Runoff has been tied to widespread eutrophication in the Gulf, as well as smaller scale pollution in urban neighborhoods.
By limiting the Act, we are opening the door for pollution to become unregulated again- taking a huge step backwards. By either issuing new legislation or regulations, we can prevent this from happening. Let’s hope Congress takes note.