WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), a senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW), issued the following response after the committee voted along party lines, 11-9, to overturn the Clean Water Rule:
“Today’s committee vote to overturn the Clean Water Rule was a dangerous, shortsighted and partisan step away from good governance, public health and commonsense environmental protection,” said Senator Cardin. “The Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers received more than 1 million comments on the proposed rule in the 100-plus day comment period. They held more than 400 field hearings and meetings across the country with stakeholders. While some in Congress have been working to derail the rule, the changes reflected in the final rule demonstrate how the process is supposed to work. Every American should have the peace of mind that comes with knowing that the water coming out of the tap is clean and safe because natural source waters are adequately protected under the Clean Water Act. Protecting clean water didn’t used to be a partisan issue. Few responsibilities of Congress are more fundamental.
“Many in Congress and the regulated community asked EPA to issue a rule defining ‘Waters of the U.S.,’ in accordance with the Supreme Court decision in the Rapanos case. Now that the EPA and Army Corps have complied with the court’s order and the confines of the Clean Water Act and issued the final Clean Water Rule, many of those same elected officials and stakeholders that asked for the rule paradoxically are now supporting the bill to overturn it. This is a bill that would scrap entirely the scientifically supported Clean Water Rule, while sending EPA back to the drawing board with arbitrary, politically motivated and unscientific instructions on how to craft a new ‘Waters of the U.S.’ rule that is not in keeping with the goals of the Clean Water Act. Unfortunately, the committee rejected my amendment to incorporate the actual goals of the Clean Water Act, as they are listed in the statute, into this bill.
“There are fundamental misunderstandings about how federal agencies should interact with the states. I’ve heard complaints about there being too many regulations contained within the Clean Water Rule. At the end of the day, in passing the Clean Water Act, Congress passed a law to protect clean water. Objections by individual members because they do not agree with the collective wisdom of previous Congresses and the intent of the Clean Water Act have no place in this debate. Our job is to provide legislative oversight, not to transform this body into an agency that implements the Clean Water Rule. Gutting the Clean Water Rule effectively leaves us with a patchwork of state laws that leave downstream states, like Maryland, at the mercy of upstream polluters.”