A new scientific study released by the independent Science Advisory Board to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) supports restoring longstanding Clean Water Act protections to streams, wetlands, and other water bodies left vulnerable by Bush-era guidance. The report underscores the need to protect all waters of the United States from pollution and permanent filling.
During the Bush administration, many of our vital waters were left without clear enforceable protections that had existed for 40 years under the federal Clean Water Act – including streams and wetlands that feed drinking water supplies of nearly 117 million Americans.
Today, the EPA released a scientific study confirming that all streams, and all wetlands adjacent to streams, are critical waters of the United States. The study adds to urgent calls for the EPA to clarify that these waters fall under the scope of Clean Water Act protection.
The EPA also announced that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers submitted a proposed rulemaking clarifying the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for interagency review—an important step in finalizing a rule to protect our nation’s water bodies.
The following is a statement from Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen:
“The science today demonstrates the need for a greater national commitment to clean water. The science is extensive, but the concept is basic: Water flows and we all live downstream. If we want to have clean drinking water for our families and swimmable, fishable waterways in our communities, we need to protect all waters regardless of size and regardless of location.
“Our clean water safeguards should conform to what science has long told us: all waters—from the smallest stream and wetlands to the Great Lakes—are critical components of a clean and healthy water supply and ecosystems. We should ensure that the promise of the Clean Water Act is realized and protect all waters. Unfortunately, many of our nation’s critical waters have been left vulnerable to toxic dumping and pollution; almost half of our nation’s waters still fail to meet basic standards. These waters supply drinking water to 117 million Americans. Restoring and ensuring longstanding Clean Water Act Protections for all waters would give these many families and communities the assurance they need that their drinking water is worth protecting.
“We hope the Obama administration heeds this important science and moves forward with commonsense clean water policies to restore protections to our nation’s streams, brooks, rivers, lakes, and wetlands—large and small, and we look forward to swift action by a new leadership team at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) as they review the proposed rule on protected waters of the United States. It has been disappointing to witness glaciers melting at a faster pace than it takes important rules to move through the OMB review process.”