Washington, D.C.—Americans submitted more than 800,000 comments in favor of restoring Clean Water Act protections to all of the nation's rivers and streams, Environment America said on the eve of a key deadline to submit comments.
“Our waters are where we fish, boat, and swim,” said Ally Fields, Clean Water Advocate for Environment America. "This show of public support is just one more reason we should be doing everything we can to protect our rivers and streams."
Outdoor outfitters, river guides, brewers, and restaurants from Oregon to Florida were among the hundreds of businesses who also voiced their support for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's proposed rule, which will protect drinking water supplies for more than 117 million Americans.
"The health of our iconic waterways and stewardship of America’s water resources are integral to our economic success as well as our quality of life," said the businesses in a letter to be delivered to EPA officials tomorrow. "By restoring the Clean Water Act, your administration will help ensure that our communities are healthy and our local economies are strong."
More than half of the nation’s streams and 20 million acres of wetlands lack guaranteed protections under federal law, thanks to a loophole created by a pair of polluter-driven Supreme Court decisions nearly a decade ago. In March, EPA proposed a rule to close the loophole and restore protections for 2 million miles of small rivers and streams across the country. The public comment period for the rule closes tomorrow.
While a broad coalition of clean water advocates, farmers, mayors, and small businesses have lined up behind the proposal; agribusinesses, oil and gas companies, and other polluters affected by the rule have waged a bitter campaign against it.
Attempts to block the clean water protections are expected to be among the new Senate leadership's to-do items. In October, Sen. Mitch McConnell and 23 other senators signed a letter opposing the rule, and the U.S. House has voted to block the rule multiple times.
"Americans want to see their waters protected, even if agribusinesses and the oil and gas companies don't," said Fields. "We're urging all Senators to side with our rivers rather than the polluters, and we're especially grateful to our champions who have stood up tirelessly against attacks on clean water."
One such clean-water champion is Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), who joined Environment America's Connecticut affiliate at a news conference on Monday.
"Effectively enforcing the Clean Water Act to restore our state’s waterways requires strong rules—and citizen activists urging them," said Sen. Blumenthal.
Over the last six months, Environment America canvassers from more than a dozen offices around the nation have done just that, holding face-to-face conversations with 400,000 people about the proposed EPA rule and gathering more than 200,000 public comments.
Environment America is the federation of statewide, citizen-funded advocacy groups working for the places we love and the environmental values we share.