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Waxman v. Stephen Johnson, Clean Water Act Edition « The Washington Independent

House oversight committee chair Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) issued a subpoena yesterday to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen Johnson to provide documents on enforcement of the Clean Water Act. While it’s become a familiar story line — EPA Administrator stonewalling an oversight committee investigation — the Clean Water saga has had some unique twists and turns.

According to Waxman’s committee, Greenpeace obtained what they say is an internal EPA memorandum grousing about the agency’s inability to enforce the 1972 Clean Water Act. Greenpeace has since handed the memo over to the oversight committee. The memo is said to outline how a 2006 Supreme Court case "negatively affected 500 enforcement cases" mostly involving wetlands. Waxman– along with Rep. Jim Oberstar, (D-Mn.) chair of the House transportation committee, which has jurisdiction over the Clean Water Act– believe the memo is legit and they’ve spent the last month trying to get EPA to produce documents related to it.

Rapanos v. U.S. was a rare court case without a controlling majority opinion. Charged with deciding if Michigan developer John Rapanos could build a mall on 35 acres of wetlands, the justices issued three different opinions on whether wetlands had to be a "navigable waterway" in order to merit federal regulation. Following the non-decision, the EPA has struggled to determine what bodies of water are protected under the Clean Water Act. But instead of admitting as much, EPA Asst. Administrator Benjamin H. Grumbles told the transportation committee in May that Raponos has has had no ill effect– contradicting the document he allegedly received from a fellow EPA clean water official.

The best-case scenario is that Johnson will hand over the documents and they’ll reveal he’s had a super-secret plan all along to enforce the Clean Water Act.

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