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Rep. Oberstar introduces H.R. 5088 — America’s Commitment to Clean Water Act

April 21, 2010

The chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has once again introduced a bill that would expand the reach of the Clean Water Act.

Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn.) unveiled his “America’s Commitment to Clean Water Act” bill today on Capitol Hill.

Chairman Oberstar indicated that his desire is to move clean water regulations back to where they were in 2001, prior to two U.S. Supreme Court decisions, and to correct the deficiencies of his 2007 Clean Water Restoration Act, which picked up 176 cosponsors, but died in committee. 

“The bill (H.R. 5088) will not require a permit for every wet area,” Oberstar said, trotting out a new talking point designed to address one of the major concerns of agriculture.

“Simply put, if it was not regulated before 2001, it will not be regulated with the enactment of this legislation.”

Wait a second.

 The bill removes the word “navigable” from the Clean Water Act and replaces it with “waters of the United States,” but it’s not going to expand the federal government’s jurisdiction?    

How can that be?

We will be communicating real soon with all five Illinois members of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee — Reps. Costello, Johnson, Lipinski, Hare, and Schock — to express our opposition to Rep. Oberstar’s latest effort.

The Senate version of the bill — S. 787 — passed out of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee last year, but does not have enough support to overcome “hold” placed on the bill.

AFBF put out a news release Thursday urging House members to oppose the bill.

“Farm Bureau has always supported the Clean Water Act as a vital tool for protecting our nation’s valuable water resources. The bill unveiled yesterday, however, goes farther by removing the word ‘navigable’ from the Clean Water Act. If the word ‘navigable’ is deleted from the law, any farm pond or ditch would be at the mercy of federal regulations. This vague and overreaching amendment to the Clean Water Act is unacceptable to America’s farm and ranch families. 

“Farm Bureau is also deeply concerned that the legislation will overturn the current treatment of prior converted cropland, a regulation that has been in place for nearly two decades. This would effectively give federal control of the development rights of 53 million acres of private land. This extension of federal control over private property rights is dangerous and unprecedented.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Mike permalink
    April 22, 2010 4:29 pm

    This bill is again another sleazy attempt by Oberstar to permit unregulated public activities (including recreation and trespassing) onto private lands. Had the bill limited the scope to protecting water quality, it may have been understandable; but the bill references constitutional law that insinuate that these waterways already belong to the US government. This is outright LIE.

    [the reference to Article IV Sec3 “The Congress shall have Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States”. However not all surface waters within the United States “belong to” the United States, nor does the land beneath drainage-ditches, puddles and pot-holes “belong” to the US. Therefore the Act clearly states a claim to land currently considered private property that is sometimes damp. ]

    Had the bill simply sought to protect water quality without laying claim to private property, it would not be considered unethical (AGAIN). As written, congressman like Oberstar is either another sleazy politician, or not bright enough to understand the consequences of his puppeteer’s proposed bill on private lands.

    The difference between Private and Public waters have been established as the difference between navigable and non-navigable streams. It is understandable that water from non-navigable (private) streams empty into public (navigable) waterways and should not be polluted. However this bill does not prevent pollution but rather lays claims to these non-navigable waterways with the purpose of protecting enjoyment of “recreational activities” many of which increase pollution from overuse.

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