Rouzer touts importance of modernizing federal Clean Water Act

U.S. Rep. David Rouzer, R-7th District, chairs a meeting of the U.S. House's Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee. (Image from YouTube)
  • U.S. Rep. David Rouzer, R-7th District, touted the importance of modernizing the federal Clean Water Act during a presentation Tuesday to a congressional subcommittee.
  • Rouzer said an updated regulatory scheme could help the United States do a better job competing with other countries on infrastructure projects.

Now more than 50 years old, the federal Clean Water Act deserves a fresh look. That was the message U.S. Rep. David Rouzer delivered as he chaired a congressional hearing on the topic Tuesday.

“The Clean Water Act has had great success in its 50 years protecting waters in North Carolina and all around the country,” Rouzer said in an opening statement to the U.S. House’s Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee. “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 is important that we not 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,” Rouzer added.

The congressman referenced the need for the United States to remain competitive. “As the United States frequently scores poorly on infrastructure reports, we are being outmaneuvered by our competitors worldwide, China in particular,” Rouzer said. “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.”

Since its passage five decades ago, the Clean Water Act has generated many federal regulations.

“Regulations should be simple to understand and easy to follow, which coincidentally, makes them so much easier to enforce,” Rouzer said. “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,” he added. “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.”

Rouzer stressed a regulatory scheme that’s clear to everyone involved. “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,” he said. “American innovation, greatness, and competitiveness cannot be achieved when the country is stuck in a bureaucratic quagmire.”

Tuesday’s hearing carried the title “The Next 50 Years of the Clean Water Act: Examining the Law and Infrastructure Project Completion.” Rouzer touted the event as a way to move toward a “modernized” act, “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,” Rouzer said. “In doing so, we can reassert American strength and compete worldwide while protecting the quality of our water all at the same time.”

Panelists at the hearing represented wastewater agencies, manufacturers, and start governments. They focused on two of the act’s regulatory provisions. Section 402 is the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System. Section 404 is the dredged and fill material discharge program.

Any changes in the act would require support from the full U.S, House and Senate.

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