Policy Pulse: Clean Water Rule Updates

Court Decision: In a decision announced on February 22, a federal court of appeals determined that it has the responsibility to resolve the pending challenges to the Clean Water Rule rather than the numerous trial courts where challenges were also filed. This decision is procedural; the court has not taken a position on the rule itself. The Obama Administration had pushed for this result, arguing that the Clean Water Act requires appellate-level review and that such an approach would be more efficient compared with separately litigating several challenges in district courts across the country.

The League believes the Clean Water Rule should be upheld and implemented as soon as possible to protect streams, wetlands, and drinking water supplies for 1 in 3 Americans. As this issue of Outdoor America went to press, it was unclear when the court of appeals would begin to consider the substance of the case. While this case is pending, implementation of the rule remains suspended nationwide.

Congress Continues To Undermine Protections for Clean Water: In April, the House Appropriations Committee approved a budget bill for the Army Corps of Engineers that prohibits the Corps from spending any funds to implement the Clean Water Rule. Congress continues to waste time passing legislation that amounts to nothing more than solutions in search of a problem. Implementation of the rule has been suspended nationwide since October 2015 as the federal courts determine how to efficiently consider multiple challenges to the rule.

Instead of addressing critical water issues, such as the drinking water crisis in Flint, Michigan, the House is yet again working to undermine protections for streams, wetlands, and other waters nationwide. A similar prohibition was offered in the Senate as an amendment to the Army Corps budget; however, that amendment was not adopted. Although this Senate result is positive, many Senators and Representatives remain committed to repealing the Clean Water Rule, and it is possible that similar amendments will be offered to future legislation.

League Advocates for Rule in U.S. Senate: On May 24, IWLA Executive Director Scott Kovarovics testified in strong support of the rule at a Senate Environment and Public Works subcommittee hearing on the topic. Kovarovics stressed the importance of clean water and healthy wetlands for hunting and angling, the outdoor recreation economy, and public health. Read the testimony on our Web site.