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Congressional Briefing - The Next 35 Years of Clean Water: What will the Future Hold?

Congressional Briefing
Wednesday, September 19th
10:00 am - 12:00 pm
210 Canon House Office Building

On September 19th, WEF and the Environmental and Energy Study Institute held a congressional briefing marking the 35th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act (CWA).  Despite considerable progress in achieving water quality goals envisioned in the Act, data indicate that up to 44% of assessed estuaries and 35% of assessed rivers and streams still suffer from impaired water quality.   While the CWA is considered one of the most successful environmental statutes enacted over the past half century, Congress has not revisited its provisions since 1987 and calls for updating the law to address such issues as stormwater and agricultural runoff are growing.  What are the challenges facing this landmark statute over the next 35 years and what should Congress do now to meet those challenges?  The congressional briefing focused on this question and address issues like non-point stormwater runoff, emerging sources of pollution, and the role water quality trading might play in achieving the Act’s goals.  The briefing kicked-off a year long effort by WEF to engage its members in tackling these issues and make recommendations for Congress to address.

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Jim Oberstar (D-MN) delivered keynote remarks and provided a first hand account of the origins of the Clean Water Act from his days as chief of staff to the then Chairman of the House Rivers and Harbors Committee, former Congressman John Blatnik, who is often referred to as the father of the Clean Water Act.  He reminded attendees that the intent of the Act was to oversee all the waters of the U.S., not just those that eventually flow into navigable waterways, as the current Supreme Court has interpreted, and urged support for the Clean Water Restoration Act, legislation currently pending before Congress.  Over 100 attendees listened to his remarks and to remarks from six other panelists.

Opening Remarks:
The Honorable James L. Oberstar, Chairman, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee

LaJuana Wilcher, Former Secretary, Kentucky Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet, Partner, English, Lucas, Priest & Owsley, LLP (moderator)

James Connolly, Executive Director, Anacostia Watershed Society

Andrew Fahlund, Vice President for Conservation, American Rivers

Marian Orfeo, Director of Planning and Coordination, Massachusetts Water Resource Authority

Kenneth Reckhow, Professor and Chair of Environmental Sciences and Policy, Nicholas School of Environment and Earth Sciences, Duke University

Richard Schwer, Senior Consultant, Environmental Engineering, DuPont Company

Alan Vicory, Executive Director and Chief Engineer, Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission