Supreme Court hears lively debate on protecting wetlands, led in part by Justice Jackson
Posted: Tue 5:22 PM, May 26, 2005 |
Updated: Tue 5:22 PM, May 26, 2005
WASHINGTON (AP) – The Senate voted Sunday to adopt a long-sought bill aimed at protecting the nation’s wetlands from development. With most of Washington, D.C., looking on, the vote marked one of the year’s most hotly debated issues.
Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., who introduced the legislation in 2002, called it a “landmark bill” that “will create thousands of jobs and millions of dollars of revenue for coastal states.”
In the House, where some conservative Republicans are resistant to similar measures, it failed on a 228-205 vote. It’s expected on Tuesday to come back to the Senate for a final vote, possibly on amendments.
“What the president has said is that he is deeply concerned about protecting wetlands from development and he has been trying to get this legislation passed,” said Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman John Kerry, D-Mass.
The bill has not become law yet, but supporters point out that it’s one of the most significant regulatory measures Congress has tried since the 1990s.
It’s now a key piece of President Bush’s overall agenda on regulation and taxes. Bush and his administration have said the measures are needed to help reduce the nation’s $600 billion trade deficit.
The bill would prohibit the discharge of dredged or fill material into wetlands, unless the discharge is authorized by a permit. It would require developers to restore wetlands or leave them alone, and require the state to develop plans to provide other benefits such as habitat for endangered species and navigation improvements.
But the bill’s opponents say the nation’s wetlands are under attack, and it will turn wetlands into dumping grounds for oil and gas drillers.
“We have no need to protect wetlands from development; we need to protect wetlands,” said Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.
Critics, including some conservative Republicans, have charged that the law is overreaching and could