Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Decline of Clean Water Act Enforcement Program

This Memo from the House Majority Staff, Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Majority Staff, Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure to Rep. Henry A. Waxman Chairman, House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and James L. Oberstar Chairman, House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure dated December 16,2008 details allegations that the Clean Water Act enforcement program has deteriorated significantly over the past two years. The memo is based on a review of more than 20,000 pages of documents produced to the Committees by the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Documents are found here:Supporting Documents

The documents indicate that the Supreme Court's decision on June 19,2006, in Rapanos v. United States and the Administration's guidance implementing that decision have resulted in a decline in the number of Clean Water Act inspections, investigations, and enforcement actions. In numerous e-mails, memos, and other documents, EPA field offices across the country have expressed serious concerns about this negative trend, warning that they are no longer able to ensure the safety and health of the nation's waters.

The documents also indicate that in one particular case involving the Santa Cruz River in Arizona, the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works disregarded a scientific determination of career staff that would prevent the reduction of Clean Water Act coverage.

Working in conjunction with corporate lobbyists and developers, this political appointee launched a campaign to overturn the scientific determination, although his efforts ultimately failed after direct intervention by EPA's Assistant Administrator for Water.

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