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Federal government considers taking control of waterways away from states

May 16, 2009

(This comes to us courtesy of the National Water & Conservation Alliance—Editor)

Senate Environment & Public Works Committee

 Expected to Act Soon on Clean Water Restoration Act (S. 787) 

Mark-Up Scheduled for Wednesday, May 20th!

(A mark-up is a long comprehensive meeting designed to approve the bill.  The committee will dissect the bill line by line.  They can amend the bill, make changes and then vote on the bill.) 

Washington DC insiders are telling us that the Environment & Public Works Committee is marking up this bill Wednesday, May 20!

This bill will profoundly impact every citizen & community in the country--your immediate attention and action is needed!  Please do the following: 

1.  Bombard the EPW office with phone calls and tell them to postpone action  on the bill (202) 224-8832.

2.  Contact both of your Senators and ask that they request a hearing on the bill before any action is taken. You can call any Senator at 202-224-3121.

3.  Contact your legislator and local elected officials and ask them to make a similar request.  Ask that the elected body that they serve on pass a resolution immediately. 

4.  Get organizations in your area to pass a resolution and to support the attached petition in support grassroots alternatives to federal legislation.

5.  Help support our efforts to defeat the bill.

6.  Forward this message to people in your network.


Washington, D.C. __ Regarded as perhaps the biggest federal power grab in the nation's history, the much anticipated Oberstar-Feingold Clean Water Restoration Act, bogged down last year in controversy and election year politics, could see action soon in a key Senate Committee.  S. 787, introduced by Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold, with 23 co-sponsors, could see committee action as early as May 20th.  One of the co-sponsors is Sen. Barbara Boxer of California, who chairs the Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works, the committee with sole jurisdiction of the bill in the Senate.

The chief author in the House is Minnesota Congressman James Oberstar.  Oberstar chairs the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which has sole jurisdiction of the legislation in the House.  This is purported to be a 'legacy' bill for Oberstar, and although there is little support for the bill in his own district, he has made it a top priority for his Committee, and is expected to introduce a bill in the House soon. 

As Reed Hopper, lead attorney in a 2006 landmark Supreme Court decision stated in testimony, ".....this bill pushes the limits of federal power to an extreme not matched by any other law, probably in the history of this country."
Hopper wasn't exaggerating.  This bill expands federal power in two ways:
     1) By removing the limiting term 'navigable' from the 1972 Federal Water Pollution Control Act and replacing it with the all inclusive 'waters of the U.S.' (including wetlands, intermittent streams, playa lakes, prairie potholes, sandflats, mudflats, ponds, meadows and sloughs).
     2) By adding the new language 'activities affecting these waters,' which refers to land use activity as well as atmospheric deposition.  As Oberstar has often stated, "water flows downhill."  That is to say that the bill is about federal control of entire watersheds, and everything is in a watershed--all water, all land, all people, all communities. 
In short, this bill is not about clean waterIt's about governance.  Its aim is top-down, command and control of land, water, people and communities.  It should be viewed as perhaps the greatest threat ever to liberty, property, jobs, energy independence, and access to and use and enjoyment of public lands and waters.  In the words of Jim Burling, senior attorney with the Pacific Legal Foundation, "If our constitutional system of limited federal powers means anything, we have to win on this issue."
The bill would overturn two U.S. Supreme Court decisions (SWANCC--2001 and Rapanos--2006) which ruled that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had exceeded their authority under the 1972 Federal Water Pollution Control Act.  Cleverly and deceptively titled the Clean Water Restoration Act, the only thing the Oberstar-Feingold bill restores, and legalizes, is the abuse of the individual rights of American citizens, and the continued expansion of federal control over every aspect of American life. 
In case you think we're overstating the case, a 2006 report prepared by Oberstar's Transportation and Infrastructure Committee staff leaves no doubt as to what this legislation is about.  The report emphasizes that control of non-point sources is the unfinished agenda of the Clean Water Act.

The simple definition of a non-point source is 'anything that doesn't come out of a pipe.'  This would include agriculture, forestry, mining, energy development, home-building and other property improvement, as well as recreational uses of public lands and waters.  It would include activities such as mowing your lawn, planting a garden, or building, maintaining, or using a recreational trail--virtually any human activity you can imagine.  As Ali Cambel, professor of Environmental Studies at George Washington University warned over 30 years ago, "Wait until they get around to controlling non-point sources of water pollution."
The bill is not about pollution, it's about power.  It is being supported by every national environmental organization in the country as a means of maintaining and expanding their power base in Washington.  Many of these groups don't just have office space in Washington--they own buildings!  There are no checks and balances, and little oversight.  This is purely and simply a redistribution of power and authority, removing it from American citizens and communities and their local elected officials, and transferring it to a massive federal bureaucracy.  That is why organizations such as the National Association of Counties are so strongly opposed to the legislation.

Of course, there are some who will benefit.  If passed, it will be a full-employment act for environmental activists and attorneys, already a major growth-industry in America.  There will be endless litigation, as every acre of land and water in the country is up for dispute as to whether a human activity should be allowed.  

This legislation could move very quickly, so you must act now!  
Here's the full makeup of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee:  

Senate Majority Committee Members


Barbara Boxer  (Chairman)
Max Baucus  
Thomas R. Carper  
Frank R. Lautenberg  
Benjamin L. Cardin  
Bernard Sanders  
Amy Klobuchar  
Sheldon Whitehouse  
Tom Udall  
Jeff Merkley  
Kirsten Gillibrand  
Arlen Specter  


James M. Inhofe (Ranking Member)
George V. Voinovich
David Vitter
John Barrasso
Mike Crapo
Christopher S. Bond
Lamar Alexander

Call your Senators even if they are not on the EPW Committee.  You can call any Senator at (202) 224-3121. 

This bill must be defeated, so please act now!  There's a better way to achieve water quality objectives--a way that allows for every citizen to participate in solutions to environmental problems--solutions that are better, faster and cheaper!  This approach has been tried successfully in many parts of the country.  It works.  And it can not only lead to common sense solutions to problems, it can help restore trust in government.  The choice is very simple:  Do you want more top-down, one-size-fits-all, command and control government from Washington, or responsible, bottoms-up, common sense government from average citizens and local communities?    
Please take the time to get organizations to support the petition below by resolution and have them return it to us as soon as possible. 

*Petition in Support of Grassroots Alternatives* 

The undersigned hereby supports local and regional alternatives to the proposed federal Clean Water Restoration Act, in order to achieve water quality objectives that reflect broad, popular support among people and communities most directly affected by environmental policies and regulations

Name                            Organization                Address/Contact Information


_____________         _______________      ________________________________
We need your support!  Please help us with a donation.  We are truly a grassroots organization taking on the multi-billion dollar industry known as environmentalism.   Send a contribution of $1000, $500, $250, $100, $50, $20, or whatever you can afford.  You may donate on line by going to our new website at, or you can send it via mail to: 

 National Water & Conservation Alliance

 P.O. Box 65246

 Vancouver, WA  98665-0009

Make sure to Call, Fax, and Email requesting a hearing on this bill before May 20th

We are dedicated to winning this battle, and we sincerely appreciate your support!
Don Parmeter                                               Kathy McDonald
Co-Chair                                                        Co-Chair
St. Paul, Minnesota                                      Vancouver, Washington

(651)224-6219                                             (360)607-8959  

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