A Clearer Clean Water Act

A New York Times Editorial

The Obama administration has rightly declared its support for Congressional efforts to restore the broad reach of the Clean Water Act. The law, passed in 1972, was intended to protect all of the waters of the United States, large and small. That mission has since been muddied by two Supreme Court decisions that narrowed the law’s scope, weakened its safeguards against pollution and confused federal regulators.

The administration has written to Senate and House committees urging them to act on bills that would restore federal jurisdiction over all wetlands and streams. All of the environmental big guns signed: Nancy Sutley, the chairwoman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality; Lisa Jackson, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency; Ken Salazar, the interior secretary; Tom Vilsack, the agriculture secretary; and Terrence Salt, the acting chief of Army Corps of Engineers.

Their intervention is timely. Powerful commercial interests, including developers and big farming groups, have been pressuring Congress to keep things the way they are.

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