Is that a Puddle I Spy? A Damp Patch of Turf?

By April 16, 2008General

From the National Center for Public Policy Research:

Washington, D.C. – A majority of Americans oppose the Oberstar/Feingold Clean Water Restoration Act (CWRA), according to a nationwide survey by Wilson Research Strategies for the National Center for Public Policy Research.

CWRA will receive a hearing of the full House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee at 11 AM today.

In the survey, voters were informed the Congress is considering a measure that would expand the areas covered under the Clean Water Act, including to areas that are only intermittently wet. They were then provided brief arguments both for and against the measure and asked if they favored or opposed the proposal.

54% of those with an opinion opposed the measure, while 46% favor it. Among political independents, opposition was higher — 56% opposed, 44% in support.

“The Clean Water Restoration Act would submit nearly every drop of water in the United States to federal regulation,” said David Ridenour, vice president of the National Center for Public Policy Research. “It’s not surprising that the American people have great reservations about such a massive increase in federal power.”

Consider that baseline public opinion, too, before any sort of major education campaign, the kind that might arise during a general election campaign if candidates took opposing sides on the legislation. We envision a spot with bureaucrats peering over fences, sniffing the air for a scent of moisture. Or perhaps even a dispassionate explanation of the costs of federalizing puddles.

The polling document is here.

The Committee has a posted a description of the hearing online, with more background here. We contend the legislation interprets the word “restoration” very broadly.

UPDATE (11:05 a.m.): The hearing is being webcast, and you can get to the link here. And do we read that right? Five panels and 23 witnesses? Phew.

UPDATE (11:25 a.m.) The ranking minority member, Rep. John Mica (R-FL) , says he’s never received such an outpouring of comments from the public in opposition to the bill. And at the Volokh Conspiracy website, Jonathan Adler writes, summarizing his testimony:

First, the bill does not “restore” the Clean Water Act, as it could extend to many waters and lands never subject to regulation under the original act. Second, the bill will fail to achieve its stated goal of increasing regulatory certainty, as its vagueness and broad language will spur substantial litigation and controversy as courts struggle to determine the scope of federal authority. And finally, that the bill will not do much to advance environmental protection because it does nothing to focus limited federal regulatory and enforcement resources where they can do the most good.

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