Support the EPA’s efforts to restore clean water protections


Supporters spoke up in this action

Delivery to EPA Administrator Michael Regan

Action ended on September 14, 2023

What Happens Next

What Was At Stake

In 2022, the Supreme Court has swept away decades of progress and legal precedent meant to safeguard our environment and our fundamental human rights. One decision you might not have heard about came a few months ago, when the Court overstepped to reinstate a Trump administration rule that threatens our water quality. Fortunately, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is taking steps to put those protections back in place and restore state and Tribal authority to protect their waterways and wetlands. Tell the EPA to work as quickly as possible to restore our clean water protections.

Section 401 of the Clean Water Act empowers states and Tribes to protect water resources that are essential to public health, ecosystems, and sustainable economies. The provision is critically important because the federal government is not always a friend of clean water. During the Trump years, federal agencies were eager to sign off on fossil fuel projects that would jeopardize water quality. Section 401 gives states and Tribes the legal authority to do their own analysis and reject projects that pose unacceptable risks to their water.

States and Tribes have used Section 401 to prevent projects that would threaten their waterways and aquatic habitats. For example, the state of New York denied the application of the Constitution Pipeline, which would have crossed waterways 251 times, disturbed streams, and destroyed or degraded at least 95 acres of wetlands. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld the state’s decision in 2017 and the project’s sponsors ultimately abandoned the pipeline.

In 2017, the Washington Department of Ecology denied a 401 certification for a proposed coal export facility on the banks of the Columbia River. The Millennium Coal Terminal would have been the largest coal shipping terminal in North America, adding more than 1,600 large vessel trips through the Columbia River and harming Tribal fishing access. Washington’s use of Section 401 power was also upheld in court.

The Trump administration’s attempt to drastically limit state and Tribal authority under Section 401 is just one in a long list of Trump gifts to the fossil fuel industry that the Biden administration is working to undo. It’s crucial we show our support to keep the momentum going. Tell the EPA to move swiftly and restore this vital clean water protection.

Fall Brook in Susquehanna County. The pipeline and access roads will disturb hundreds of acres of land and will cut across forests, watersheds, and special protection waters.
Fall Brook in Susquehanna County. The pipeline and access roads will disturb hundreds of acres of land and will cut across forests, watersheds, and special protection waters. (Photo courtesy of Nicholas A. Tonelli)

Your Actions Matter

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

You level the playing field.

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

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.

Make sure your elected officials know whose community and whose values they represent. 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. Read more.

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. Read more.

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 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.