Blogs > The Watchdog > We can’t afford to lose the Clean Water Act

We can’t afford to lose the Clean Water Act

The Trump Administration has opened a 60-day comment period on a proposed rollback of the Clean Water Act’s essential protections. You can make a difference now by submitting a comment to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers by April 15.

We can't a afford to lose The Clean Water ActIn 1972, waterways in the United States were severely polluted and dangerous. Rivers caught on fire, communities were sickened and wildlife disappeared. In response to this devastation, Congress passed the Clean Water Act — a monumental law that prohibits pollution and requires restoration of the nation’s waters. Under this law, all waters that are defined as “Waters of the United States” are federally protected against pollution under strict standards that are meant to protect drinking water, wildlife, recreation and many other uses.

President Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers have proposed a new definition of WOTUS with a singular goal — to give polluters a free pass by eliminating the laws and standards that control their pollution. If this definition is finalized, untreated pollution can be discharged into waters across the United States without meeting any of the Clean Water Act’s permitting and treatment standards.

The proposal would also drastically reduce the types and number of waters protected by the Clean Water Act. This includes rivers, streams, lakes, wetlands and other waters around the nation. The impacts will be even more severe in the West due to new, complex and unscientific requirements. For example, the rule explicitly excludes all “ephemeral streams,” which flow in only in response to rain or snow, but provide many essential ecological functions and flow into downstream waters and drinking water supplies.

We can't afford to lose The Clean Water Act

Upper Hudson River at Route 25 downstream of the MacIntyre Tract. (Photo by Dan Shapley / Riverkeeper)

The Trump administration’s proposal undermines the most fundamental premise of the Clean Water Act — that we need broad federal power to control pollution and protect waterways. History and science have shown that allowing unregulated pollution in wetlands and waterways will inevitably lead to broad degradation of water quality around the nation — all waters flow downstream.

Larissa Liebmann is a staff attorney at Waterkeeper Alliance, the largest and fastest growing nonprofit solely focused on clean water. Reposted with permission by Waterkeeper Alliance.

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