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Restore the Clean Water Act

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What’s At Stake

We’re all downstream from someone else. This is both a hydrological reality and a mandate to take care of each other as if the health of a neighbor impacts one’s own health — because it does. The Trump administration decided to gut the Clean Water Act to allow for polluters to abandon their responsibility to protect our water — ignoring science and rejecting the obligation we have to each other. 

Tell your senators to push back against the administration’s gutting of the Clean Water Act! 

The issue at stake is the 2015 Clean Water Rule, which sought to clarify what waters should get Clean Water Act protections. The Clean Water Act calls for the federal government to protect “waters of the United States”— but polluters have done their best to muddy the water and limit what counts under this definition. Enter the Clean Water Rule, which used a scientific approach to determine which waters needed protection. Clarity — rather than further regulations — was what the Clean Water Rule provided. 

However, polluters that wanted to keep using ambiguity to justify skirting their responsibilities to protect our water began lobbying the Trump administration to reverse the rule. The administration’s response was the “Dirty Water Rule,” which arbitrarily excludes certain waters from the definition of “waters of the United States,” allowing for polluters to dump their waste without proper permits or restrictions. More than 20% of streams, half of wetlands, and all of our groundwater basins are impacted by the “Dirty Water Rule,” putting the water of 117 million Americans at risk.  

Fortunately, senators are calling out the administration’s dirty maneuvering. Senator Duckworth introduced a resolution calling on the EPA to strengthen Clean Water Act requirements and reverse the ongoing rollbacks. While the resolution is nonbinding, it’ll send a strong message to our leaders that we believe in accountability for polluters and clean water for everyone 

We can’t afford to let polluters dismantle our protections. Every part of our water system is connected — harming one part harms the whole — but polluters want us to think it’s possible to pick and choose what’s protected. Please join us in telling your senators to cosponsor the Clean Water Resolution to push back against attacks on clean water. 

No swimming sign in a body of water
iStock / Richard Goerg

A sign warns that no swimming is allowed in a dirty, polluted waterway.

Your Actions Matter

Your messages make a difference, even if we have leaders who don't want to listen. Here's why.

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You level the playing field.

Elected officials pay attention when they see that we are paying attention.

They may be hearing from industry lobbyists left and right, but hearing the stories of their constituents — that’s your power.

Our legislators serve at the pleasure of the people who gave them their job — you. When you contact your elected official, you’re putting a face and a name on an issue. Whether or not you voted for them, they work for you, for the duration of their term.

Make sure your elected officials know whose community and whose values they represent. (Find your local, state, and federal elected officials.)

Your action is with us in court.

If a federal agency finalizes a harmful action, the record of public comments provides a basis for bringing them into court.

Throughout each of the public comment periods we alert you to, Earthjustice’s attorneys are researching and writing in-depth, technical comments to submit — detailing how the regulation could and should be stronger to protect the environment, our communities, and our planet.

We need you to join us — your specific experiences, knowledge, and voice are crucial to add to the Administrative Record through the comment periods.

Lawsuits we file that challenge weak or harmful federal regulations rely on what was submitted during the comment period. The court can only look at documents that are in the Administrative Record — including the public comments — to decide if the agency did something improper.

Your actions aid our litigation. Taking action and submitting comments during a comment period is substantively important.

It’s the law.

Federal agencies must pause what they’re doing and ask for — and consider — your comment.

Many of us may have never heard of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), but laws like these require our government to ask the public to weigh in before agencies adopt or change regulations.

Regulations essentially describe how federal agencies will carry out laws — including decisions that could undermine science, or weaken safeguards on public health.

Public comments are collected at various points throughout the federal government’s rulemaking process, including when a regulation is proposed and finalized. (Learn more about the rulemaking process.) These comments become part of the official, legal public record — the “Administrative Record.”

When the public responds with a huge outpouring of support for environmental protections, these individual messages collectively undercut politicians' attempts to claim otherwise.

What this means is each of us can take a role in shaping the rules our government creates — and ensuring those rules are fair and effective.