[env-trinity] Clean Water Act

Byron bwl3 at comcast.net
Thu Feb 23 12:16:46 PST 2006

Editorial: Challenge to Clean Water Act endangers nation's streams; S.

San Jose Mercury News - 2/23/06


Consider what would happen if two legal challenges to the Clean Water Act,
which the U.S. Supreme Court heard Tuesday, were to succeed.


Polluters are currently not allowed to dump toxic substances into a major
river -- and that wouldn't change. So far, so good. But it would become
perfectly legal to dump the same poisons into a stream that flows into that
same river. Or as Justice David Souter aptly said: ``All you've got to do is
dump the pollutant far enough up the water system to get away scot free.''


To think that's what Congress intended is absurd.


Under that topsy-turvy interpretation of the landmark 1972 law, more than
half of all streams in the United States, as well as one-fifth of all
wetlands, would no longer be protected, according to the federal
Environmental Protection Agency. And waterways that provide drinking water
for more than one in three Americans would be at risk. Nearly 150,000 miles
of protected streams in California could be threatened.


It's no wonder that four former EPA administrators who served under
administrations of both parties, attorneys general from 33 states -- and of
both parties -- and several members of Congress who helped write the
water-protection law joined scores of environmental, outdoor recreation and
public-health organizations in asking the court to uphold the full
protections of the act. And even the Bush administration, not known for
environmental alarmism, has warned that narrowing the scope of the act would
significantly reduce its ability to protect the nation's waters.


The Clean Water Act specifically bars the dumping of pollutants into
``navigable waters.'' The Supreme Court has already said wetlands adjacent
to navigable waters are protected too: They can't be polluted -- or filled
with sand without proper permits. The cases before the court include a
wetland adjacent to a tributary to a navigable river and one that is
separated from similar tributaries by a small artificial earthen dam. In
both cases, developers claim their properties are far removed from navigable
waterways and should not be covered by the law.


The court's two newest justices, Samuel Alito and John Roberts, have
promised they will show due respect for the will of Congress. It is
perfectly clear that Congress intended the Clean Water Act to have a broad
sweep and protect the nation's interconnected system of rivers, streams and
wetlands. This will be a key test of whether Alito and Roberts plan to live
up to their promise.



Byron Leydecker

Chair, Friends of Trinity River

Advisor, California Trout, Inc

PO Box 2327

Mill Valley, CA 94942-2327

415 383 4810 ph

415 383 9562 fx

bwl3 at comcast.net

bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org





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