WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), a senior member of the Environment and Public Works Committee and former Chairman of the Senate Water and Wildlife Subcommittee, today praised the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps) for their joint final rule to clarify the Clean Water Act’s protections for streams and wetlands.
“Today’s final rule restores some long overdue regulatory certainty to the Clean Water Act,” said Senator Cardin. “Prior to the Supreme Court’s decisions in SWANCC v. Army Corps in 2001 and Rapanos v. U.S. in 2006, the Clean Water Act was working well to restore the health of our nation’s water resources. During that same 30-year period, the U.S. economy grew exponentially, demonstrating that America doesn’t have to choose between a healthy environment and a robust economy. The SWANCC and Rapanos decisions called on EPA and the Army Corps to clarify the definition of ‘Waters of the U.S.’ The ensuing 13-year absence of clarity has created a more cumbersome regulatory review process and disrupted the regulatory certainty long provided by the Clean Water Act.”
“The EPA and Army Corps held a 100-plus day comment period on the rule and received more than a million comments, the majority of which were supportive of the rule. The two agencies held more than 400 meetings with stakeholders to solicit input on the proposed rule. 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. Clarifications to certain key terms like ditches, tributaries and adjacency show that the EPA and Army Corps were listening closely to the concerns of the regulated communities and were willing to use suggestions from stakeholders. The agencies made sure the final rule is workable for the regulated community, while maintaining important water resource protections for the public.
“The importance of the disputed streams and wetlands is on display every day in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, and this rule actually gives special consideration for these outstanding water resources, which I greatly appreciate. The shoreline of the Chesapeake Bay and its tidal tributaries stretch for more than 2,000 miles. One hundred thousand streams and rivers – and thousands of acres of wetlands – provide the freshwater that flows into the Chesapeake Bay. If we do not protect the health of this incredible network of waters, we cannot hope to restore the Chesapeake Bay to its former health.
“Perhaps most important to understand are the types of waters and activities to which this rule does not apply, and that the final rule actually expands upon the original list of exemptions in the rule as proposed originally. Farmers in the Chesapeake Bay region have made tremendous strides to reduce nutrient and sediment runoff from their operations, and this rule exempts more than 50 specific agricultural conservation practices from Clean Water Act permitting. The rule also does not protect any new types of waters historically not protected under the Clean Water Act. And it effectively will curb Army Corps regulators from making jurisdictional determinations on certain ephemeral and intermittent ditches.”