House Bill Would Dramatically Expand Reach of Federal Clean Water Act

June 2010Newsletters In the Zone

In a move that would dramatically expand the scope of the Clean Water Act by replacing the phrase "navigable waters of the United States" with "waters of the United States," Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, on April 21 introduced H.R. 5088, the America's Commitment to Clean Water Act (ACCWA).

This change would have an enormously negative impact on the home building industry, effectively extending the federal government's reach to all waters, including storm sewers and retention basins, roadside ditches and seasonal streams.

The expansion of federal jurisdiction proposed in the bill would lead to many more land development and residential projects requiring federal permits and would exacerbate permitting delays--increasing construction costs and driving down housing affordability.

H.R. 5088 was introduced with two co-sponsors, Reps. Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.) and John Dingell (D-Mich.).

By comparison, when Oberstar introduced a similar bill in the last Congress, the Clean Water Restoration Act, he had almost 160 co-sponsors.

Oberstar has indicated that he would like to bring H.R. 5088 to the House floor for a vote in September, which would require his committee to consider the measure in the next few months.

On the Senate side, there has been no action since the Environment and Public Works Committee approved S. 787, the Clean Water Restoration Act, last June. At that time, Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) said he had placed a "hold" on the bill and indicated that he would filibuster to prevent it from moving to the Senate floor. Crapo is still committed to preventing the bill from moving forward.

For more information, please contact Kimberly A. Freimuth at 215.918.3627 or [email protected].