NSAC's Blog

“Dirty Water” Amendment to FY2012 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill

November 18, 2011

On Thursday, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition joined over 170 organizations on a letter to Senators urging that they vote against a “dirty water” amendment to the FY2012 appropriations bill for water and energy development.  The letter is being circulated by the Clean Water Network.

The dirty water measure, sponsored by Senators John Barrasso (R-WY) and Dean Heller (R-NV), would amend the FY2012 Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill to prevent the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers from taking regulatory action on the scope of waters protected by the Clean Water Act.   In 2001 and 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court issued opinions that created uncertainty about which kind of waters are protected by the Act.  This was followed by Army Corps of Engineers memos, prepared under the George W. Bush Administration, that put further agency-created limitations on the scope of protection.

As a result, critical wetlands, stream headwaters, rivers and creeks that flow part of the year, and other waters are now unprotected.  The New York Times has reported that almost 1,500 investigations of companies that have spilled oil, carcinogens, dangerous bacteria and other pollutants into lakes, rivers and other waters have been shelved as a result.

The U.S. Supreme Court opinions invited the EPA and the Army Corps to issue regulations clarifying the scope of the waters protected by the Clean Water Act.  These agencies are currently engaged in doing just that, with the preparation of new guidance on the scope of the Act and groundwork for being laid for regulations.  The dirty water amendment is intended to block these efforts, not just in FY2012, but indefinitely.

Senate action on the FY2012 Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill has been put on the Senate’s calendar and debate on the bill will likely begin after the Senate’s Thanksgiving recess.  The Clean Water Network is still adding organizations to the letter.  You can find more information on the Network’s website about the dirty water measure.

Categories: Conservation, Energy & Environment

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