The Clean Water Act is our nation's law for protecting our most irreplaceable resource. Clean water is vital for our health, communities, environment, and economy, but the continued success of the Clean Water Act is being threatened by this EPA's overzealous siege on the states' important regulatory role and our ability to improve water quality around the nation.
When Congress passed the Clean Water Act in 1972, it did not contemplate creating a single, federally-led, top-down water quality program. Rather, Congress intended the states and EPA to implement the Clean Water Act as a federal-state partnership where the states and EPA act as co-regulators.
It is through the cooperative efforts of the states and EPA, along with the efforts of municipalities and industry, that we have made great progress in reducing pollution in our nation's waters over the past 40 years. The Clean Water Act, augmented by other federal conservation programs, has kept tens of billions of pounds of pollutants out of our waterways. As a result, today more than two-thirds of America's waterways meet water quality standards, and many of the worst effects of unchecked municipal and industrial water pollution have been largely eliminated.
Most laws like the Clean Water Act are enacted with noble intentions. Unfortunately, after four decades, these water quality successes are being threatened today by overzealous EPA bureaucrats and some activists who have hijacked a noble mission and turned it into a nightmare for state and local governments and consumers who pay more for water and more for unnecessary federal intervention.
EPA is undermining the system of cooperative federalism established under the Clean Water Act by upsetting the long-standing balance between the federal and state partners in co-regulating the nation's waters. EPA now is insisting on imposing its federal will on states, municipalities, and the private regulated community with a heavy-handed, top-down, one-size-fits-all regulatory approach that is taking away the flexibility they need to address their environmental issues. And activists are using aggressive litigation tactics to hijack and dictate EPA's and the states' regulatory agenda.
As a result, EPA's and the activists' actions are creating financial pressures and an atmosphere of regulatory uncertainty for states, municipalities, and the regulated community, and are having a chilling effect on the nation's economy and job creation. Their actions also are creating substantial animosity toward the Clean Water Act and toward environmental protection in general, which is harmful to both the economy and the environment and counterproductive to achieving further water quality improvements.
These efforts by EPA and activists to undermine the cooperative federal-state partnershipthat has long existed under the Clean Water Act needto stop.
Our nation can have both clean water and a healthy economy, but will not if we continue to go down the road that EPA and the activists are trying to lure our nation.
We need to restore the proper cooperative role of the states and get back to implementing the Clean Water Act as Congress envisioned it 40 years ago. Among other things, we need to set realistic and financially achievable water quality standards and allow communities flexibility in how they achieve compliance. By doing this, we can continue to improve water quality across the nation for the next 40 years.