Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Update from Marsha

Hinting at how she'll vote...am I right? Stay tuned...

What a pleasure to hear from you. Thank you for contacting me to share your thoughts about the Clean Water Authority Restoration Act (CWARA). Hearing from constituents on issues of concern is important to me and our office as we work to represent our district.

How best to protect the nation's remaining wetlands and regulate activities taking place in wetlands has become one of the most contentious environmental policy issues, especially in the context of the Clean Water Act (CWA), which contains a key wetlands regulatory tool, the permit program in Section 404. The statute requires landowners or developers to obtain permits for disposal of dredged or fill material that is generated by construction or similar activity into navigable waters of the United States, including wetlands. Section 404 has evolved through judicial interpretation and regulatory change to become one of the principal federal tools used to protect wetlands, although that term appears only once in Section 404 itself and is not defined there. This evolution of the 404 program has generally pleased those who view it as a critical tool in wetland protection, but dismayed others who would prefer more limited jurisdiction who see the expanded regulatory program as intruding on private land-use decisions.

On January 9, 2001, the Supreme Court ruled on the question of whether the CWA provides the Corps and EPA with authority over isolated waters. The Court's 5-4 ruling in Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County (SWANCC) v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (531 U.S. 159 (2001)) held that the Corps' denial of a 404 permit for a disposal site on isolated wetlands solely on the basis that migratory birds use the site exceeds the authority provided in the Act. From this decision, the Bush Administration has issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking seeking comment on how to define waters that are under jurisdiction of the regulatory program which could either limit or expand the geographic scope of wetlands. On December 16, 2003, EPA and the Corps announced that the Administration will not pursue development of rule changes concerning federal regulatory jurisdiction over isolated wetlands.

Currently, the H.R.1356 has been referred to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment. This bill, soon to be introduced by Congressman James Oberstar, is intended to achieve three main purposes: (1) to restore and maintain integrity of waters of the United States; (2) clearly define the waters that are subject to the Federal Water Pollution Control Act; and (3) provide the fullest legislative protection of these waters given to Congress under the Constitution. As the legislative process continues, you can be assured that I will keep your thoughts in mind when this legislation comes before the full House.

Please know that I appreciate both your interest and your time in contacting us on this issue. As the discussion and debate moves forward on this and other issues please feel free to visit our website at www.house.gov/blackburn where you can sign-up for our email update -- the Blackburn Report, updates on important issues; find information on constituent services; read columns, recent press and the latest legislative news; all of which affect and concern the people of Tennessee.


Marsha Blackburn

Member of Congress