From early morning tadpole pursuits to sunset creek walks, my summer days started and ended in the creek that ran behind my home. My dad built a bridge across the creek, but for our neighborhood gang of rascals, well, there was no use for such bridges when we could splash and wade right through that water. Whether we were forging the stream or sitting cross-legged in it with our heads above the water, exploding with impish giggles, this creek was as much our home as our bedrooms 50 yards away. And when we outgrew the shallow waters of our backyard creek, my siblings and I took our energies to nearby Lake Erie, where we swam in deeper, more mysterious waters.
Many people have memories of swimming, fishing, wading, visiting, or skipping rocks in waters during their youth—whether those ran through their hometowns or were the destinations of family travels. That these waters were safe for recreation—or even drinking water—was no accident. Our nation’s Clean Water Act is the force that has allowed us to fish and swim and sip our water without ill consequences.
But today, the Clean Water Act and 59 percent of our nation’s streams and headwaters are in peril. The danger facing our nation’s waters, along with all the little kids who want to play in them, has arrived in an amendment by Senators John Barrasso (R-WY) and Dean Heller (R-NV).
As early as this Wednesday, Senators Barrasso and Heller will ask senators to vote for their Dirty Water Amendment, effectively repealing key pieces of the Clean Water Acts.
Sens. Barrasso and Heller are trying to attach their Dirty Water Amendment to a spending bill. If it passes, it would wipe out pollution limits for streams, brooks, wetlands, lakes and other waters in every state. Specifically, the amendment would block a long-overdue Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers guidance to restore decades of Clean Water Act safeguards to 59 percent of our nation’s streams and headwaters and 20 million acres of wetlands.
These waters were stripped of protections by two Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006 that misread and muddled the law. As a result, the EPA and the Corps are working on a guidance that would restore those protections, but the Dirty Water Amendment would kill this effort and bar the agencies from clarifying the confusion about how the Clean Water Act should protect our waters.
This alarming amendment isn’t the first pro-polluter gift that’s infiltrated the Senate over the last few days. Last week, another piece of Rep. Eric Cantor’s toxic pro-polluter agenda slithered into the Senate, as the upper chamber voted on two dirty and dangerous pieces of legislation with House origins. Those two bills, written to benefit a narrow set of corporations at the expense of the broad American public, were sponsored by Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and John McCain (R-AZ). Thankfully, our Senate beat back those sneak-attacks and voted them down. Those bills would have cost tens of thousands of American lives each year, so the Senate’s rejection suggests that some in our Capitol are still looking after the American people and our health and well-being.
We hope that the Senate exhibits the same responsibility and decency toward all Americans this week when the Barrasso/Heller Dirty Water Amendment comes up for a vote.
While it’s clear that the House is determined to continue to advance and pass this sort of ill-conceived legislation, we are leaning on the Senate even more heavily to stop these blatant giveaways to polluter special interests. It is crucial that our senators rise above special interests and act in the interest of what is best for our nation’s families, communities, and health, and vote against this Dirty Water amendment when the spending bill comes up this week. Please email your senators now and tell them to oppose this Dirty Water Amendment!