Today the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a rule to restore long-standing Clean Water Act protections to streams and many wetlands across the country. These protections, which stood for decades since Congress passed the Clean Water Act in 1972, were dismantled in the last decade by two Supreme Court decisions that created confusion about how to interpret which water bodies should be covered under the Clean Water Act and by policies of the George W. Bush administration that removed longstanding protections from many streams and wetlands. As a result, 59 percent of America’s streams and 20 million acres of wetlands were left vulnerable to toxic pollution.
The new rule reinstates protections for many of those waters based on an analysis of thousands of peer-reviewed scientific studies conducted by an EPA independent science advisory panel last year. The proposed rule must now be opened for public comment before the Obama Administration can move forward with finalizing it.
The following is a statement from Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen:
“We applaud the EPA for proposing a rule that would reinstate clean water protections for streams and wetlands that supply the drinking water of 117 million Americans.
“Unfortunately, for the last decade while these protections have lapsed, we have seen the consequences of not protecting our waters. Today, more than 55 percent of our rivers and streams are in ‘poor’ condition, considered unfit for drinking, swimming, or fishing.
“As the West Virginia chemical spill shows, the cost of not having clean water is too great a price to pay.
“The EPA’s new Clean Water Act rule finally restores protections so that we can begin the hard work of cleaning up our waters for our children to swim in, fish in, and drink from.
“No doubt, polluters will rail and lobby against this rule and any other clean water safeguards that keep them from dumping their toxic waste in our communities and waters, or that hold them accountable for their pollution.
“We cannot back down on protecting the waters that eventually flow through our faucets. Our children, our health, and our very drinking water are at stake. We urge the Obama administration to resist the polluter lobbies and quickly move forward in protecting our waterways and our families.”