The Clean Water Act (CWA) is landmark environmental protection legislation passed in 1972 that applies to all surface water bodies in the U.S. As the nation's primary law governing water quality, it sets standards, defines permit requirements, and establishes enforcement powers and penalties. CWA is credited with cleaning up nearly one-third of our nation's lakes and rivers since its enactment.
Last year, a divided Supreme Court created chaos for protections of over 50 percent of the nation's waters, issuing a decision on the Clean Water Act making it much harder for agencies to determine what bodies of water qualify for protection. The Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers are the federal agencies responsible for implementing the Clean Water Act.
Today's non-binding guidance released by the EPA and the Corps will be effective immediately and subject to a public notice and comment period for six months. The agencies refused to commit to a rulemaking, which would have the force of law and be subject to judicial review.
Critics say the guidance inadequately clarifies whether the CWA protects a large proportion of the nation's streams and some 20 percent of its remaining wetlands from pollution and destruction.
Audubon strongly supports passage of the Clean Water Restoration Act (HR2421), which would clarify the scope of the Clean Water Act and provide stronger protection for our nation's environment.