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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has taken action to finish cleaning up rivers, lakes and bays throughout the nation after making reviews and changes to the Clean Water Act.
Earlier, Congress added a legislative "rider" to block the act during a period of public comment. The Administration then made substantive changes in response to the public comments it received in finalizing the rule.
EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner said: "This program is designed to control the greatest remaining threat to America's waters - polluted runoff. The time has come to move forward and live up to the promise of the Clean Water Act by making our waters fishable and swimmable once again."
The changes EPA agreed to make a number in response to the comments received after its initial proposal, including those from members of Congress, include: dropping provisions that could have required new permits for forestry, livestock, and aquaculture operations; significantly enhancing state flexibility; giving states four years instead of two years to update inventories of polluted waters; and allowing states to establish their own schedules for when polluted waters will achieve health standards, not to exceed 15 years.
President Clinton announced the proposed program to bring cleaner water to the nation last August. The final program announced and signed comes after four years of extensive consultation with states, local communities, and agricultural, environmental and industrial groups.
The plan builds on the successful cleanup models of the Great Lakes and the Chesapeake Bay, using measurable targets to achieve real reductions in water pollution. It supports a credit trading system like that used in the acid rain program to ensure cost-effectiveness. It allows maximum flexibility for state and local governments to develop cleanup plans.
(Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)