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E-M:/ Clean Water Action Reacts to Bush Backing Down

Press Release
For Immediate Release                   Contact:        Bethany Renfer, 517-203-0758
December 17, 2003                               Kym Spring, 616-742-4084                

Clean Water Action Reacts to Bush Administration Backing Down

Michigan -- Clean Water Action welcomed today’s Bush Administration move to withdraw a proposal that would have significantly weakened protection of the nation’s waters under the Clean Water Act. 

“Today’s decision shows that the American public wants strong laws to protect public health and natural resources and that people’s voices can stop bad policy,” said Clean Water Action’s National President David Zwick.

Since the Fall of 2002, Clean Water Action (CWA) has opposed the effort to remove 60% of streams, headlands tributaries, wetlands and other water bodies from protection under the Clean Water Act, mobilizing over 50,000 communications from its members to President Bush, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Senators and Representatives on the issue.

“While often characterized as a rule affecting wetlands, the Administration’s proposal would have allowed pollution of drinking water sources throughout Michigan,” said CWA Program Coordinator Bethany Renfer.  The proposal, outlined in a January 2003 Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, would have severely restricted which bodies of water are subject to Clean Water Act programs intended to reduce pollution and insure that water is clean, fishable and swimmable.

The proposal would have allowed contamination of water that makes its way into drinking water sources all over Michigan.  Potential impacts would have included increased microbial contamination from raw sewage in drinking water sources, leading to public health problems and the need for expensive new drinking water treatment.  “We should be enforcing and strengthening the Clean Water Act and aggressively protecting drinking water sources, not weakening the law and endangering public health,” said Renfer.

The Clean Water Authority Restoration Act, intended to clarify that all waters of the United States should receive Clean Water Act protection, remains on the table in both the US House and Senate with bi-partisan support.  In addition, 26 Senators and 218 members of the House signed letters to President Bush urging that the rulemaking not go forward.

Clean Water Action noted that a “Guidance” document to EPA field staff and Army Corps of Engineers on when and how to permit wetlands destruction, issued at the same time as EPA’s initial proposal, remains in effect and should be rescinded to ensure adequate protection for all water bodies.  In addition, several other critical water issues remain on the table  including exemption from liability for MTBE makers and users, federal water quality standards, water pollution trading policies and the Clean Water Act’s “Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL)” program that would set long overdue plans for reducing pollution into specific water bodies.

Clean Water Action is a national organization working to ensure clean, safe and affordable water, prevention of healththreatening pollution and creation of environmentally safe jobs and businesses. CWA has approximately 100,000 members in Michigan, with offices in Lansing, Grand Rapids and Clinton Township.