Take Action Now: Ask Your Members
of Congress to Co-Sponsor the "Clean Water Protection
Act" H.R. 4683 to Prevent Waters From Being
Buried By Waste
On May 3, the Bush administration adopted
a final rule that is one of
the most destructive amendments to Clean Water
Act regulations in decades
- a change to key clean water rules that, for the first
time in 25 years,
would allow the US Army Corps of Engineers to permit
industries to bury wetlands, streams, rivers, and
shorelines with waste materials.
Just five days later, a bipartisan group
of US Representatives, led by
Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Christopher Shays (R-CT),
introduced federal legislation to block this destructive rule change
by proposing to add to
the Clean Water Act a statutory definition of "fill
material" that would expressly forbid the Corps of Engineers from
permitting the discharge of
waste materials as "fill" to bury and
destroy the nation's waters. On the
same day, May 8, a federal district judge in West
that the Bush rule change violates the Clean Water
Act and enjoined the Corps
from issuing any new 404 permits for fills made out of
The Bush administration and the coal companies
Please contact your US House members
to ask them to cosponsor this
important legislation to protect the nation's waters.
Go to http://congress.nw.dc.us/cwn
to send an email asking your member
to support H.R. 4683.
THE RULE CHANGE
On May 3, the Bush administration reversed
an important and longstanding
Clean Water Act regulation that will, for the first
time in decades, allow
the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to issue permits authorizing
polluters to dispose of mining waste, construction
waste, and other types
of industrial waste directly in our nation's waterways.
The rule centers on the definition of
what constitutes "fill material"
under the Clean Water Act.
Sec. 404 of the Act authorizes the Corps to
issue permits for the discharge of "dredged
or fill material" into waterways. Since
1977, the Corps' regulatory definition of "fill material" expressly prohibited the use
of waste as "fill."
now, the Corps was legally barred from issuing Clean Water
Act permits to
industries that wanted to discharge pollutants composed
of waste as "fill"
into waters of the United
States. The Bush administration
action deleted this important waste exclusion from the
The rule change is an attempt to legalize
the destructive practice of
mountaintop removal coal mining, where the tops
of mountains are literally
blown apart and the millions of tons of waste generated
are dumped into nearby streams. In Appalachia, this form
of mining has already
buried and destroyed more than 1,000 miles of streams.
Unfortunately, the devastating environmental
effects of this rule change
will not end with mountaintop mining.
Removing the waste exclusion will
now allow polluters to seek permits to dump hardrock
mineral mining waste,
construction and demolition waste, plastics and other
forms of industrial
waste in waters across the nation.
THE PALLONE-SHAYS BILL
The Pallone-Shays bill (H.R. 4683) would
simply insert a definition of
"fill material" into the Clean Water
Act itself. (Currently,
the Act does not
contain a definition - the definition of fill has always
been in the regulations.) The proposed definition in the bill states that
"fill material" means any pollutant which
replaces portions of the
waters of the United States with dry land or which
changes the bottom elevation
of a water body for any purpose. The term does not include
any pollutant discharged
into the water primarily to dispose of waste."
This definition contains the "waste exclusion"
language that was in the Corps' own rules for many years.
Judge Haden's decision correctly found
that the Bush agencies' change of
the rules is beyond their legal authority, and
his decision is strongly grounded in the letter, history and spirit of
the Clean Water Act.
However, the Bush administration and coal companies
will continue to try to overturn his decision. Allowing wastes - including coal mining wastes, hardrock mining tailings, construction
and demolition debris,
and other industrial wastes - to be discharged
into the nation's waters as "fill" is a goal of the Bush administration
that they are likely to
pursue in court for some time.
Passage of the Pallone-Shays bill would
settle the matter by creating a
definition right in the Act itself.
Co-sponsorship of the Pallone-Shays bill
is a way for Members of
Congress to demonstrate that they are on the side
of Clean Water.
Again, please contact your US House members
to ask them to cosponsor
H.R. 4683 to protect the nation's waters.
(To read the bill, go to
and search on the bill number.)