WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has finalized a rule that leaves half the nation’s wetlands and thousands of streams -- which help provide millions of Americans with drinking water -- without the federal protection of the Clean Water Act.
"Americans’ views on clean water are as clear as a mountain lake: they support strong federal protections to keep our water safe for drinking, swimming, fishing and sustaining nature. Yet this Dirty Water Rule will leave America’s waterways vulnerable to pollution and degradation, endangering drinking water sources for millions,” said John Rumpler, senior attorney for Environment America Research & Policy Center. “Polluted water can make anyone sick -- no matter where you live or your politics. This move defies common sense, sound science, and 50 years of bipartisan support for clean water."
From the Chesapeake Bay to Puget Sound, streams and wetlands are crucial to the health of the nation’s most iconic waterways. Wetlands filter out pollutants, provide wildlife habitat, and protect communities by absorbing floodwaters. If streams are polluted, that pollution can flow into larger rivers and our drinking water. The Dirty Water Rule would wipe out protections for countless streams and wetlands -- a move that was recently rebuked by EPA’s own science advisors.
Public support for maintaining Clean Water Act protections is widespread. More than one million Americans -- including business owners, local officials, scientists, and hunters and anglers -- have provided comments to EPA, urging the agency to protect streams and wetlands under the Act. Moreover, Environment America has filed legal comments explaining why the Dirty Water Rule cannot be upheld under the Clean Water Act itself.
But lobbyists for corporate agribusiness, developers, and the oil and gas industry have long demanded that federal protections be removed for streams and wetlands. Pollution from agribusinesses contributes to toxic algal outbreaks, fish kills, dead zones, drinking water contamination and fecal bacteria that can make swimmers sick. Some developers are eager to build on wetlands and the oil and gas industry has countless pipelines running through them.
“With the Dirty Water Rule, the administration has put the interests of polluters over those of the public and our drinking water,” said Rumpler. “We’ll be calling on Congress and the courts to uphold the Clean Water Act.”