Clean Water Rule Will Protect Drinking Water for 1 in 3 Americans, if Congress steps aside

Obama administration finalizes long-awaited Clean Water Act protections


Michael Kelly, Clean Water Action, (202) 393-5449


Trey Pollard, Sierra Club, (202) 495-3058


Ed Chen, NRDC, (202) 289-2432


Liz Judge, Earthjustice, (415) 217-2007


Emily Driscoll, SELC, (404) 521-9900


Becca Marcott, River Network, (307) 399-2302


Nicole Duarte, American Rivers, (301) 538-3633


Eric Steen, BlueGreen Alliance, (612) 325-6110

Today the Obama administration closed loopholes that left the drinking water sources for more than 1 in 3 Americans at risk of pollution and destruction with the release of its long-awaited Clean Water Rule. A number of environmental, wildlife, and sportsmen groups praised the rule, which ensures Clean Water Act protections for streams and wetlands across the country, but warned that there are multiple efforts underway in Congress to weaken, undermine, or stop the rule completely.

"We applaud the Obama Administration for taking this vital step to safeguard the nation's clean drinking water," said Bob Irvin, President of American Rivers. "Few things are more fundamental to our health. Nobody should have to worry about pollution when they turn on the tap. This administration's leadership in protecting our streams will benefit millions of Americans and their children and grandchildren."

“The Obama Administration’s decisive action today is good news for every American who wants to swim, fish, or simply drink a glass of water without the fear of toxic contamination. For too long, polluters have exploited legal confusion to destroy or dump dangerous waste in our waterways with impunity," said Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club. "Now, President Obama and the EPA have helped put an end to that by restoring the Clean Water Act and helping ensure millions of miles of American waterways are protected for the enjoyment of the American people, not polluters.”

“When more than half of this country’s rivers and streams are in poor condition, unfit for swimming, drinking or fishing, it is time to finally realize the original promise of the Clean Water Act. While the state of U.S. waters has worsened, the Clean Water Act has been blunted by a decade of confusion and inaction," said Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen. "We applaud the Obama administration and the EPA for finalizing this commonsense and vital rule that will further the goal of cleaning up our waters. People in Toledo, Charleston, WV, and Montana City know the stakes all too well, but all our lakes, rivers, streams, and beaches across the country will be cleaner for it.”

The Clean Water Rule restores clear protection to 60 percent of the nation’s stream miles and millions of acres of wetlands that were historically protected by the Clean Water Act, but have lacked guaranteed safeguards for nearly a decade. The rule enjoys broad support from local governments, small businesses, scientists, and the general public. In 2014 Americans submitted more than 800,000 comments calling on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers (the Corps) to protect clean water with a strong rule. A recent national survey found that 80% of Americans support the Administration's the Clean Water Rule. When asked if they thought Congress should allow the rule to go forward, 79% said yes.

“The EPA and Army Corps’ Clean Water Rule will fight pollution and protect the drinking water of 117 million Americans, so it should be no surprise that our recent polling on the rule demonstrated overwhelming public support," said Gene Karpinski, President of League of Conservation Voters. "People want to know that the water our children and grandchildren drink, swim, and play in is protected from pollution. It’s time for Congress to step away from their pro-polluter agenda and embrace these long-overdue protections for our small streams and wetlands.”

Clean water is the economic lifeblood of many communities. According to EPA, the Clean Water Rule will bring hundreds of millions of dollars in annual benefits to the public from reducing flooding, filtering pollution, providing wildlife habitat, supporting hunting and fishing, and recharging groundwater. Anglers alone generated nearly $115 billion in economic activity in 2011, breathing life into rural communities and supporting more than one million jobs. Small and independent craft brewers contributed almost $34 billion to the U.S. economy in 2012.

The rule will also close loopholes that prevented EPA from moving forward with more than 1,500 major pollution investigations of companies that spilled oil, toxic chemicals and bacteria into streams over a 4 year period according to an New York Times.

Despite the importance of the Clean Water Rule to businesses, wildlife, and communities across the nation, special interests and certain members of Congress are attempting to prevent EPA and the Corps from implementing the Clean Water Rule. Just last week, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1732, which would force the agencies to scrap the current rule and start over. A similar bill will be debated in the Senate in the coming weeks—a bill that would create wasteful new hurdles to protecting various kinds of water bodies.

"Thanks to the Obama Administration, the drinking water supplies of 117 million Americans will gain strong safeguards against pollution," said Rhea Suh, President of NRDC. "These long-overdue protections also will ensure cleaner wetlands, headwaters, brooks and streams that we use for swimming, fishing and other recreational activities. It was a long, hard slog to reach this day. Now we will redouble our efforts to defend the new Clean Water rule against developers, big polluters and their allies in Congress who want to kill it."

EPA and the Corps engaged the regulated communities, State and Local governments, farmers, ranchers, and small business owners while developing the Clean Water Rule. The agencies also received more than 1 million comments, the majority of which supported action, during the public comment period in 2014. Contrary to what some Members of Congress will claim, the Clean Water Rule was informed by the input of thousands of stakeholders.

EPA scientists reviewed more than 1,200 scientific publications and found that headwaters upstream significantly impact the condition of rivers, lakes, and bays downstream. The Clean Water Rule is a strong, commonsense measure to protect 2 million miles of streams millions of acres of wetlands throughout the nation. Americans are looking to their elected officials to stand with them and protect the drinking water sources for 117 million Americans.

"Our rivers, lakes, and drinking water can only be clean if the streams that flow into them are protected,” said Margie Alt, Executive Director with Environment America. “That’s why today’s action is the biggest victory for clean water in a decade.”

"The Clean Water Rule helps protect our drinking water. While we have made progress since the Clean Water Act passed in 1972, incidents like last year’s drinking water crisis in Toledo show that we need to do more to prevent pollution of drinking water sources," said Bob Wendelgass, President and CEO of Clean Water Action. "The Clean Water Rule follows the science, which reveals the critical role streams and wetlands serve in filtering pollution before it reaches critical water resources. We thank the Obama administration for finalizing the Rule and urge Congress to listen to the American people who overwhelmingly support the Clean Water Rule."

A toddler enjoys a water splash.
The Clean Water Rule restores clear protection to 60% of the nation’s stream miles and millions of acres of wetlands that were historically protected by the Clean Water Act, but have lacked guaranteed safeguards for nearly a decade. The rule enjoys broad support. (Photo courtesy of Sabrina Campagna)

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