Florida's Vanishing Wetlands
and the Failure of No Net Loss

Restoring wetlands, restoring the Clean Water Act

Posted on March 7, 2010 10:39 a.m.
By Craig Pittman

The White House delighted environmental and civic groups in Louisiana and Mississippi last week with an announcement about a new plan for restoring coastal wetlands.

The road map comes from a working group that combines the forces of most of the federal agencies that deal with environmental and wetland issues. "The Obama administration's decision to create the working group to focus on coastal restoration in the two states is aimed at elevating concerns about coastal habitat, including the effects of sea level rise from global warming, to the national level," the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported.

"Unless we stem the rapid rate of ecosystem loss in the region, the ecosystems and the services they provide will collapse, with negative consequences for the marine and terrestrial environment, national commerce, the maritime industry, energy security, fisheries, and the rich cultural legacy of the Louisiana and Mississippi Gulf Coast," said the working group's road map document.

Meanwhile, efforts to restore some power to the law that's supposed to protect wetlands, the Clean Water Act, are not meeting as much success. the New York Times reported.

A pair of U.S. Supreme Court rulings in wetland-regulation cases has so badly hindered enforcement of the act that "some polluters say the act no longer applies to them and are therefore refusing to renew or apply for permits, making it impossible to monitor what they are dumping," the Times reports. Regulators say they can do little about it.

Yet efforts to overturn those Supreme Court rulings via a bill called the Clean Water Restoration Act have so far failed to progress very far.

The reason, the Times reports, is that "a broad coalition of industries has often successfully lobbied to prevent the full Congress from voting on such proposals by telling farmers and small-business owners that the new legislation would permit the government to regulate rain puddles and small ponds and layer new regulations on how they dispose of waste."

Without some change in the law, though, expect the tide of water pollution to grow worse, say officials. “We are, in essence, shutting down our Clean Water programs in some states,” Douglas F. Mundrick, an E.P.A. lawyer in Atlanta, told the paper. “This is a huge step backward. When companies figure out the cops can’t operate, they start remembering how much cheaper it is to just dump stuff in a nearby creek.”

Clean Water Act turns 40

Posted on Oct. 18, 2012 8:50 p.m.
By Craig Pittman

Today marks the 40th anniversary of passage of the Clean Water Act, one of the most remarkable, far-reaching and contentious ...

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Supreme Court gets a chance to botch another wetlands case

Posted on Jan. 8, 2012 9 p.m.
By Craig Pittman

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court will take up the somewhat tangled case of Mike and Chantell Sackett , whose ...

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U.S. wetlands are "at a tipping point" -- and worse off than report says

Posted on Oct. 13, 2011 10:05 p.m.
By Craig Pittman

The U.S. Interior Department issued its latest report on the status and trends of the nation's wetlands last week, and ...

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New study shows Supreme Court decision left wetlands vulnerable

Posted on Sept. 13, 2011 8:07 p.m.
By Craig Pittman

Last week the Environmental Law Institute released an extensive new study on the state of the nation's wetlands in the ...

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House casts historic vote to yank EPA's Clean Water Act authority

Posted on July 13, 2011 9:57 p.m.
By Craig Pittman

In a historic vote late Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to yank the Environmental Protection Agency's authority over ...

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