By Andy Fellows, Chesapeake Regional Director
The Clean Water Act turns forty on Thursday, October 18th. This week, our water experts and friends are reflecting on the Act
October 17th marks the 40th anniversary of Richard Nixon’s veto of the Clean Water Act, preceding by a day the October 18th override by Congress. The vote was before Nixon’s re-election and after the break-in at Watergate which eventually brought the President to resignation. The veto and override are both important – the Clean Water Act was born in controversy and a hard-fought victory, and remains a key point of contention between polluters and their allies, and the vigilant stewards of natural resources of all political persuasions. 17 of the 52 Senators who voted to override were Republicans, and four of the 12 Senators who sided with Nixon and the polluters lobby were Democrats.
The universally recognized need for clean water made Congress veto bi-partisan override understandable, as was the bi-partisan power of the polluter lobby. There is still a long way to go in the great achievement of making America’s waterways swimmable and fishable, and this election marks the opportunity to for all Americans to exercise their right to vote for that goal. Re-electing President Obama, on November 6th is a big step in that direction.
It is also vital that we are represented by leaders, at federal, state and local levels, who will work with the President, the Environmental Protection Agency and advocates to keep our progress on track in restoring the Bay and all its tributaries. County standards and land planning decisions have a great effect on neighborhood streams, and state rules guide the implementation of the Bay Watershed restoration plan. Along with federal protections, each level of government adds to the suite of tools that will make our lives cleaner, healthier and restore the economic engine of the Chesapeake Bay. We need to electing the right people is crucial to that effort.