Restoring Clean Water Act Protections

Session Date & Time: 
May 6, 2012 - 10:30am
Session Length: 
90 minutes
Skill Level: 

Jan Goldman-Carter, Senior Manager, Wetlands and Water, National Wildlife Federation

George Sorvalis, National Wildlife Federation

It has been nearly forty years since Congress passed the 1972 Clean Water Act to protect all "waters of the United States." For almost 30 years, both the courts and the agencies responsible for administering the Clean Water Act interpreted it to broadly protect our nation's waters. But the last decade has put the health of the nation's waters on a dangerous path.

In two recent decisions, Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (SWANCC) in 2001 and Rapanos v. United States in 2006, the Supreme Court narrowly interpreted the scope of waters covered by the Act, questioning whether many vital wetlands, lakes and streams merit federal pollution safeguards. Further putting our waters at risk, after the court decisions the Bush administration excluded numerous waters from protection and placed unnecessarily high hurdles to protecting others.

These decisions and actions have undermined the ability of the Clean Water Act to protect our waters, especially drinking water sources. A 2009 EPA report found that over one-third of all Americans get their drinking water from public drinking water supplies fed by headwaters and intermittently flowing streams that are now vulnerable to pollution. EPA estimates more than 14,000 polluting facilities nationwide that once required pollution discharge permits may no longer require them as a result of the rollback in Clean Water Act protections.

Participants will learn about: what waters in their locality are currently protected under the Clean Water Act; both strengths and weaknesses of the Administration's rule-making proposing to restore Clean Water Act protections; critical state-based information which will help participants submit substantive comments on the rule-making; and tools to outreach beyond the River Rally to other participants' partners and networks on the rule-making. Participants will also walk away with greater knowledge of how to apply the Clean Water Act to protect our precious water resources.

Presenter Bio(s): 

Jan Goldman-Carter served as counsel for fisheries and wildlife at NWF from 1987-1991, and has served as wetlands and water resources counsel from 2006 to the present. From 1997-2006, Jan served on the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy's Board of Directors, serving as its chair from 2005-2006 and as chair of its Legal Committee. Jan taught Environmental Law at University of Indiana-Indianapolis Law School as adjunct faculty member in 1992 and at the University of St. Thomas Law School in 2004. She received the 1993 Environmental Protection Agency-Environmental Law Institute National Wetlands Award. Jan also worked on wetlands conservation as a biologist with the US FWS, the US EPA and the US Army Corps of Engineers. Jan received her B.A. in Biology and Environmental Studies from Williams College, Massachusetts, her M.S. in Natural Resources from the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources, and her J.D. from the University of Minnesota.

George Sorvaliz manages NWF's water resource coalitions and partnerships and coordinates the Water Protection Network, a 195-member network of local, state and regional organizations working to ensure our nation's water projects and policies are environmentally and economically sound. Prior to his current position, George worked for OMB Watch - a government watchdog organization, where he led a national campaign to stop the EPA from dismantling the Toxics Release Inventory - the public's best source of toxics information. George has coordinated outreach efforts for the Right-to-Know Network, a network of local, state and national organizations working to protect and promote the publics' right-to-know about environmental and health concerns. George has also worked for Sierra Club's Environmental Quality program and got his start in environmental advocacy canvassing for Clean Water Action in 1998. George received his B.A. in Philosophy from the University of Delaware.