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Public Statements

Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2014

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. DINGELL. Madam Chairwoman, if you like confusion, keep the status quo and oppose the amendment.

If you want to get clarity and you want to understand and you want to get investment and progress and if you want to have people understand what the law is, support the amendment.

The proposal that has been put forward by the Corps of Engineers is clarity itself. It does not change the decision wrongly made by the Supreme Court, no matter how much I might dislike that decision. What it does is it allows people to know what the law is as set forth by the Supreme Court. Foreclosing the Corps of Engineers from carrying out its proper responsibilities under the law going back before 1899 is an act of extraordinary unwisdom and stupidity. My colleagues on the other side do not understand the issue. The simple fact of the matter is all this does is to allow the Corps of Engineers to tell the people of the United States what the law is with regard to what is navigable waters that may be affected by pollution, ditching, draining, and doing other things.

So when you vote to strike this section, you are not changing the law; you are allowing the Corps of Engineers to set forth what the rules happen to be, and you're allowing the Supreme Court to bring clarity to the decisionmaking of the United States and seeing to it that people may then go forward and invest and do the other things that are necessary in the light of the decision of the Supreme Court, which again, I repeat, is not changed, not by the amendment which is offered by my friend from Virginia.

I urge my colleagues to support the amendment offered by Mr. Moran of Virginia because it brings clarity to a confused situation, and it makes plain and apparent what the law is.

So if you want to get progress so that people will know how they're going to invest in doing things that affect their property and the waters of the United States, supporting the amendment is the way to do it; and failing to support the amendment is to ensure that confusion will continue to exist and that businesses, industry, and the communities of the United States that need to act upon the waters to see to it that they are protected and that they are preserved, you're seeing to it by opposing the amendment that that cannot be done.

The Supreme Court was wrong in the decision which they made. I was here on the floor when we agreed that the navigable waters are all of the waters of the United States. The Supreme Court was either too ignorant or too lazy to bother reading that particular debate, but the legislative history of the law is clear. And I repeat, this does not move us back to the old way, and it does not change the unfortunate decision of the Supreme Court. What it does is it ensures that for the first time since this kind of amendment was offered on the floor, that we are able to finally begin to move forward to deal with the law as it affects navigability, the Clean Water Act, and the other things which are so important both to protecting our waters and to ensuring that business and industry may invest with a clear understanding of what the law is.

To oppose this amendment is to ensure that there will be more litigation, which will cause more obfuscation and delay and more difficulty in terms of achieving our purpose of having American citizens be able to enjoy the water in accordance with the law as the Corps of Engineers will set it out so that everyone will know what the law is rather than the Congress stultifying the law and seeing to it that we're incapable of having a clear pronouncement of what the law is as made by the agency which has the responsibility to do so under the law.

I urge you to support the amendment. I urge you to strike section 107, and I urge you to get this country going forward on a very important matter which is being thoroughly obfuscated by a lot of people who know nothing about the matter. I urge adoption of the amendment and the striking of the section.

I yield back the balance of my time.

[Begin Insert]

Madam Chair, I rise in support of the Moran-Dingell amendment which will protect not only the Clean Water Act but also the power and integrity of the United States Congress.

When the Clean Water Act was passed, I stood on the floor of this House and explained the intent of the Conference Report on the Clean Water Act. I said, ``the conference bill defines the term `navigable waters' broadly for water quality purposes. It means all `the waters of the United States' in a geographical sense. It does not mean the `navigable waters of the United States' in the narrow technical sense we sometimes see in some laws.''

In 2006, the Supreme Court wrongly restricted the original Congressional intent of the Federal government's authority under the Clean Water Act. The Supreme Court completely ignored Congress' intent to provide a broader definition of ``U.S. waters'' and instead upended 35 years of precedence simply because they refused to review the facts.

But the issue before us today is not whether or not you agree with the Clean Water Act. The question is, simply: Is the Corps of Engineers going to be able to tell people what the law is and how it is to be interpreted by the Corps and how citizens will then have to behave?

Under the law, our amendment simply says the Corps may inform people of what the law, as set forth in the Supreme Court's rulings, means. I think that is something which is important in terms of seeing to it that people may go forward with their planning, with economic development and everything of that sort.

In light of the Supreme Court's misguided decision, the Army Corps of Engineers is working on updated guidelines that will take into account the decision of the Court and define what their new jurisdiction will be under the Clean Water Act. This is not a massive expansion of power by the Corps as some would have you believe. This is simply attempting to comply with the Supreme Court's decision.

By preventing the Corps from spending any funds to implement these new guidelines, this House would be casting a pall of uncertainty over the country. If someone wants to build a home or new business near a wetland or other body of water, do they need to consult with the Army Corps of Engineers before doing so? The language in this bill would not answer that question and would likely lead to more costs on that homeowner or businessperson in legal and court fees. The language in this bill would certainly lead to more court battles and create a wonderful mess that would lead to lawyers making plenty of money.

To say anything else about this legislation is either to be misled or to mislead. I would beg my colleagues to vote in favor of the intelligent approach of seeing to it that we are going to allow people to know what the law is and allow the Corps of Engineers to set out what the law is for the benefit of business, industry, and people.

[End Insert]


Mr. DINGELL. Madam Chairman, I urge my colleagues to support the amendment offered by my good friend from Virginia. I urge them to strike section 112.

There's no one in this Chamber that owns this world. We borrow it from those who come behind us in the future, and we owe them a duty to see to it that we return it in proper form.

The bill, as drafted, forbids the Federal Government from seeing to it that all manner of defilement is not dumped into the navigable waters of the United States. This is having an appalling consequence, destroying waters, killing fish, polluting the water sources of our communities and cities. But beyond that, it's doing something else.

A race of unscrupulous people are sawing the tops off our mountains in the Appalachians and other places, and they're taking that spoil and dropping it in river valleys and filling them up, the result of which is that the water flowing through that valley becomes highly acidic, and it produces severe danger, not just to fish and wildlife, but to human beings. These are the waters of the United States that are being defiled.

The amendment would at least afford a moderate level of authority to the Federal Government, which has always been that authority of the Federal Government, to protect one of the greatest treasures this Nation has: its flowing waters.

My colleagues on the other side think that that is a question of jobs. We're going to mine, and we should, but we should do it carefully and wisely and well, with due attention to the future and to our trusteeship of the world that we love.

We do not have the right to defile our waters. We have a duty to protect this land and to see to it that it is returned to future generations of Americans in as good a shape as we have found it, and perhaps, if we can, in a better shape.

What they have done is to change the situation, where now almost anything goes, and the result is a calamity for the future of the United States.

Water is one of the next coming great shortages of this Nation. It's something that is going to be very much missed by our future generations because we have, by adopting this bill without this amendment, defiled those waters, made them unsafe to drink and to recreate in, made them unsafe for all kinds of purposes, including even industrial use of those waters.

I urge my colleagues to support the amendment offered by my good friend from Virginia. I urge you, my dear friends and colleagues, to look to the future of the country whose custodians and trustees we are, to see to it that we return this beautiful Nation of ours to the future generations in the condition in which we found it and which is suitable and fitting to the greatest Nation in the world.

We can have mining, we can have all of the other things we need, but all we have to do, under the law, as it has been, is to do it wisely, carefully, prudently and well, with due regard for the future.

This language in the bill stricken by the amendment offered by my colleague from Virginia would defile those waters and defile the future of this Nation.

I beg you, support the amendment. I beg you, strike the section. I beg you, be good trustees of the future and of the great gifts that God has given this Nation, and to strike section 112 so that we can properly protect one of the great blessings that this Nation has, an abundance of water, which the language of the bill, as now drawn, will defile and destroy.

And people in the Appalachians will curse us for what we have done to them by filling stream valleys with muck and corruption, by defiling the waters and the rivers and the streams and the lakes of the United States.

This is not good custodianship. This is a disregard of the greatest opportunity that we have, and that is to return to our future generations this Nation in the shape in which they will want it to be and we want it to be.

[Begin Insert]

Madam Chairman, I rise in support of the Moran-Dingell amendment that gives this and future administrations the flexibility they need should they decide to address the issue of ``fill material.''

While the Clean Water Act has been a success, we still have a long way to go to fulfill the promise of the Act. According to the EPA, for the first time in many years, the Nation's waters have actually started to get dirtier. The response to this disturbing news should be a renewal of the Nation's commitment to clean water. Unfortunately, the previous administration charted a different course and worked to dismantle the very tools that make the Clean Water Act work.

Through regulatory changes, the previous administration eliminated a 25-year-old ban on dumping mining and other industrial wastes into streams and wetlands, and adopted policies abandoning the long-standing national ``no net loss of wetlands'' goal. That administration also proposed weakening the Clean Water Act's program that guides the cleanup of polluted waters.

Congress made it clear that the Clean Water Act covers all of these waters. I know this because I was there. In 1972, I spoke on the floor of the House about Clean Water Act and stated for the legislative history that that the bill covers all the waters of the United States. What we in Congress said when the law was passed remains true today: in order for the goal of clean water to be met, all waters must be protected for water pollution to be eliminated at its sources.

We in the Congress knew in 1972, as we know now, that the purposes of the Act--to restore and maintain the integrity of the country's waters--could not be achieved if any of the nation's vital waters are removed from the law's scope.

As a conservationist, hunter and avid sportsman, I see a pressing need to protect and restore our Nation's waterways and wetlands. These valuable systems support a diverse array of migratory birds, as well as many other species of wildlife. These waters are also an integral part of the landscape that serves mankind. Wetlands help prevent floods and are natural filters, removing pollutants from drinking water.

I was proud to play a part in enacting the Clean Water Act. Prior to that landmark legislation, rivers were catching on fire and fishermen dubbed Lake Erie the Dead Sea. We have come too far to allow a roll-back. I ask my colleagues to support both Moran-Dingell amendments.

[End Insert]


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