Clean Water Act

Clean Water Act

The Federal Clean Water Act (CWA) provides the basis for most American water pollution control laws.  Significantly, the Act regulates releases of pollution and toxic substances into waters of the United States and ensures that surface waters are fit for human recreation.  All waters with a “significant nexus” to “navigable waters of the United States” fall under the prevue of the CWA.  However, the term “significant nexus” has been the subject of great legal debate.  Many believe that nonpoint sources of pollution were intended to be covered by the act as well.  However, to date, these sources (most notably large farms) are not subject to provisions of the CWA.

Cry Wolf Quotes

Because of our guilt—and because of the media’s espousement (sic) of the movement—laws were passed which asked industry and the American consumer for the impossible. The members [of Congress] admitted they did not know what could actually be done to clean up our environment, how long it would take or how much it would cost. But they went ahead anyway in the spirit of political expediency to ramrod through measures that would affect millions of people and billions of dollars…

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Gary D. Knight, Associate Director for Environment, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Chamber of Commerce Public Presentations

To remove jurisdiction of thermal discharges to the higher Federal level offers no evident benefits in the public interest, and on the contrary our experience has shown that it will lead to decisionmaking[sic] on the basis of arbitrary formulas without giving proper weight to the local conditions that do affect public interest.

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William S. Lee, Vice President for Engineering, Duke Power Co., on Behalf of Edison Electric Institute, Testimony, Subcommittee on Air and Water Pollution of the Senate Committee on Public Works.
04/28/1970 | Full Details | Law(s): Clean Water Act

Laws dealing with complex and technical problems were passed with much emotionalism, little debate, and even less of a data base for support.

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Gary D. Knight, Associate Director for Environment, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Chamber of Commerce Public Presentations

Clean air, land and water are vital to all of us. But so are jobs, food, clothing and housing. We have to weigh the total impact on the environment along with the economic and social costs in order to clean up.

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Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President Arch Booth, Chamber of Commerce Newsletter, May 1973.

Evidence