Bush administration limits reach of Clean Water Act

If you assumed the federal Clean Water Act should apply to all bodies of water in the U.S., well, you have made an ass out of u and me. The Bush administration unveiled guidelines this week that say only bodies of water large enough to float a commercial boat in and their adjacent wetlands will get automatic protection under the law, while decisions on smaller streams will be made on a case-by-case basis. The new rules attempt to provide guidance in the wake of a Supreme Court decision that found justices split on whether to limit the act. “In effect, the EPA and the [Army Corps of Engineers] are taking their field staff and the public out to the woods, blindfolding them, spinning them in circles, telling them to ‘go west,’ and calling that guidance,” says Jon Devine of the Natural Resources Defense Council. Democrats in Congress have introduced legislation that would clarify and again widen the scope of the law. But why have clear guidance when you could have arbitrary decision-making?