Friday, July 06, 2007

Who Has The Administration's Ear

Money talks, and when it does, this administration listens. Today's NY Times gives a perfect example of this axiom.

After a concerted lobbying effort by property developers, mine owners and farm groups, the Bush administration scaled back proposed guidelines for enforcing a key Supreme Court ruling governing protected wetlands and streams.

The administration last fall prepared broad new rules for interpreting the decision, handed down by a divided Supreme Court in June 2006, that could have brought thousands of small streams and wetlands under the protection of the Clean Water Act of 1972. The draft guidelines, for example, would allow the government to protect marsh lands and temporary ponds that form during heavy rains if they could potentially affect water quality in a nearby navigable waterway.

But just before the new guidelines were to be issued last September, they were pulled back in the face of objections from lobbyists and lawyers for groups concerned that the rules could lead to federal protection of isolated and insignificant swamps, potholes and ditches.

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers, charged with enforcing the Clean Water Act, finally issued new guidelines last month, which environmental and recreational groups said were much more narrowly drawn. These groups argue that the final guidelines will leave thousands of sensitive wetlands and streams unprotected.
[Emphasis added]

The arguments raised by the property developers, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, and Alliance Coal were specious: no one was seriously arguing that potholes needed to be protected. What the Supreme Court held in that ruling is that the nation's waterways are affected by the smaller systems that ultimately feed into them, and those smaller systems also fell under the Clean Water Act the Bush Administration had been trashing.

But the moneyed interests prevailed, to no one's surprise. And that's a shame, because clean water is in everyone's interest, especially as supplies dwindle.

It's going to be a long eighteen months.



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