The Next Fifty Years of the Clean Water Act: Examining the Law and Infrastructure Project Completion
2167 Rayburn House Office Building
This is a hearing of the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment.
Opening remarks, as prepared, from Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee Chairman David Rouzer (R-NC) from today’s hearing, entitled “The Next Fifty Years of the Clean Water Act: Examining the Law and Infrastructure Project Completion”:
For just over half a century, the Clean Water Act (CWA) has functioned to improve the quality of rivers, lakes, and streams throughout the country. Congress recognized that we had a major issue with the quality of our Nation’s waters and understood the many benefits that are derived from access to clean, navigable waters.
North Carolina's Seventh Congressional District, which I'm honored to represent, is known for its beautiful waterways and beaches that provide significant recreational and economic benefits. We also have many important bodies of water that we rely on for commerce and drinking water.
The Clean Water Act has had great success in its 50 years protecting waters in North Carolina and all around the country. We should be proud of the progress we have made to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters.
It would be irresponsible to ignore innovation and other major changes that have occurred since Congress passed the Clean Water Act back in 1972. Now, more than 50 years following its enactment, it is not only appropriate but necessary to reflect on how the CWA works and what parts of it might need an update.
As the United States frequently scores poorly on infrastructure reports, we see ourselves being outdone by our competitors worldwide, China in particular. We all agree that there should be rules of the road. But as I like to say, we don’t need a stop light every 10 feet like we have here in Washington, D.C.
Regulations should be simple to understand and easy to follow, which coincidentally, makes them so much easier to enforce. Our worldwide competitors care little to nothing about any regulatory structure or permitting. When they want to do something, they just do it. We are much better than that, of course, as we should be. But it doesn’t mean we should be forced to accept a timeline of years to build a manufacturing plant, new infrastructure or energy project. All this does is give our international competitors a distinct and significant advantage.
Regulations should carry out the intent of the law transparently, and not leave regulated communities, whether it be miners, utility companies, state and local governments, manufacturers, or any other hardworking American, subject to bureaucratic uncertainty, or line the pockets of trial lawyers. American innovation and greatness cannot be achieved when the country is stuck in a bureaucratic quagmire.
Today, the Subcommittee will hear perspectives on how the Clean Water Act can be modernized, so that its rules and regulations fit the current times, while still accomplishing the goal of making waters of the United States “fishable and swimmable.” Ensuring the completion of important infrastructure and energy development projects — for things like wastewater management, the mining of critical minerals, and water resources development — is vital to reducing supply chain challenges and promoting commerce. In doing so, we can reassert American strengthen and compete worldwide while protecting the quality of our water all at the same time.
This hearing is the latest action we are taking to examine and modernize the Clean Water Act. This morning, we have a knowledgeable panel of witnesses here today, representing a diverse array of interests who are all affected by the Clean Water Act, including wastewater agencies, manufacturers, and state governments. I am eager to hear from our witnesses about their experiences with Clean Water Act regulations, and their ideas on how to improve and update it for the benefit of everyone.
This panel of stakeholders is well-versed on the details of Clean Water Act regulations. Our focus today is on two of the main regulatory provisions of the CWA: Section 402, the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program, and Section 404, the dredged and fill material discharge program. NPDES seeks to mitigate the discharge of pollutants into our water systems.I look forward to hearing from you, our panelists, on the NPDES program, including on the creation of effluent limitations guidelines, Section 404 issues such as Nationwide Permits, and any other insights into CWA programs you may have, especially as it relates to responsibly advancing energy and infrastructure project completion.