23 Environmental Groups Comment on Proposed Clean Water Act Changes

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(06/18/1996) - The following letter commenting on the National Governor's Association Clean Water Act proposal was sent today by a diverse group of 23 conservation, labor, religious, health, native, and gardening organizations.

American Oceans Campaign * Center for Marine Conservation * Clean Water Action * Coast Alliance * Defenders of Wildlife * Environmental Defense Fund * Environmental Working Group * Friends of the Earth * The Garden Club of America * Izaak Walton League * National Audubon Society * National Parks & Conservation Association * National Wildlife Federation * Native American Rights Fund * Natural Resources Defense Council * Pacific Rivers Council Physicians for Social Responsibility * Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism * Sierra Club * Trout Unlimited * United Methodist General Board of Church & Society * United States Public Interest Research Group * United Steelworkers of America *

June 18, 1996

The Honorable Tommy Thompson
Governor of Wisconsin
Chairman, National Governors' Association

The Honorable Bob Miller
Governor of Nevada
Vice Chairman, National Governors' Association

The Honorable Fife Symington
Governor of Arizona
Chairman, Committee on Natural Resources,
National Governors' Association

The Honorable E. Benjamin Nelson
Governor of Nebraska
Chairman, Committee on Natural Resources,
National Governors' Association

Dear Governors:

As the CEOs of national organizations concerned about the environment and representing more than twenty million Americans, we are writing to you to express our grave concern about the National Governors' Association draft staff legislative proposal regarding the Clean Water Act. If the policies currently being drafted reflect the amendments in this legislative proposal, we fear that it may result in a major rollback for protection of our nation's waters.

The Clean Water Act is credited with improving the quality of our lakes, rivers, streams and coastal waters. At one time raw sewage and industrial waste fouled our waters. Now, thanks to the Clean Water Act, 60% of our waterways are safe for swimming and fishing. Unfortunately, we still have a long way to go to ensure safe and clean waters for all Americans. We need to remain vigilant in our efforts to control industrial and municipal discharges and we must tackle the problem of polluted runoff and continued wetlands destruction.

Clean water is not only compatible with economic growth -- it fosters it. Thirty five billion dollars is spent on fish consumption per year. With all of the beach and lake vacationers, the recreation and tourism industry provides a $22 billion trade surplus. Property values are higher in areas adjacent to clean water. The market for environmental technologies to protect water quality was over $64 billion in the U.S. in 1994. Numerous studies have shown a strong correlation between strong environmental protection policies and economic growth in the states.

In the spring of 1995, the House of Representatives passed a bill, H.R. 961, that would have led to more polluted waters and granted numerous loopholes to polluters. During and after the passage of that bill, editorials in newspapers across America dubbed the bill the "Dirty Water bill." In poll after poll, the public has expressed its strong disapproval of policies that would weaken water quality protection.

In our view, the NGA staff proposal seeks to promote the substance of the House "Dirty Water bill" in a new package. Among the recommended changes are those that, like H.R. 961, weaken water quality standards, eliminate the enforceable coastal polluted runoff program and weaken state-wide polluted runoff and stormwater programs, weaken wetlands protections and oversight, weaken general enforcement policies, and increase bureaucracy and red tape through endless cost-benefit analysis.

The states have played an important role in protecting water quality and we support that role. However, since water does not respect state boundaries, diminished water quality in one state can harm the citizens of another state. We believe the NGA staff proposal is inconsistent with the states historic role in protecting water quality and would turn back the clock on nearly twenty-five years of protection provided by the Clean Water Act.

We urge the National Governors' Association to reject these draft proposals and respond to the public call for a strong Clean Water Act. We would welcome the opportunity to work with you.

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Contact(s):

Joan Moody, (202)682-9400 x220 (Media)
Julie Waterman, 202-547-9009