Washington, DC – Developers can no longer pave over wetlands and oil companies can no longer dump into streams unheeded, thanks to the Obama administration’s Clean Water Rule that goes into effect in all but 13 states today.
The measure restores Clean Water Act protections to more than half the nation’s streams, which feed iconic waterways from the Chesapeake Bay to Puget Sound. The waters protected by the rule also help provide drinking water for 117 million Americans and protect communities from flooding.
“What a great way to start this summer weekend,” said John Rumpler, senior attorney for Environment America. “In most places, Americans can go swimming, paddling or fishing knowing that our waters are now better protected from pollution.”
The Clean Water Rule addresses loopholes created when developers and polluters brought cases all the way to the Supreme Court, with decisions that left more than half the nation’s streams and 20 million acres of wetlands without clear protection of the Clean Water Act. In a four-year period following the decisions, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had to drop more than 1,500 investigations against polluters, according to one analysis by The New York Times.
For nearly a decade, Environment America built public support to restore protections to these waters – educating one million people at their doorsteps, organizing support from 1,000 businesses, farmers, mayors, and local organizations, and issuing several research reports on the issue. A May Hart Research Associates poll showed that 80 percent of American voters surveyed across party lines favored the Clean Water Rule.
Despite this broad public support, polluters and their allies have waged a bitter campaign against the Clean Water Rule in Congress. Yet so far, none of their multiple bills have garnered sufficient support to stop the rule from going into effect.
So polluters and their allies have turned once again to the courts. Those bringing lawsuits against the Clean Water Rule now include Murray Energy (the largest privately held coal company in the U.S.), agribusiness interests, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and several state attorneys general.
Yesterday, a federal judge in North Dakota granted a motion to halt the rule in 13 states pending the outcome of litigation by their attorneys general. Yet the Obama administration and clean water advocates are confident that the Clean Water Rule will survive challenges in both Congress and the courts.
“The Clean Water Rule is on solid ground - legally, scientifically, and politically,” said Rumpler. “For most of the country, today restores vital protections that will help keep our waters clean for swimming and safe for drinking.”
Next Tuesday, Environment America will release a new Summer Fun Index report showing how many millions of people depend on clean water for swimming, boating, and other summer activities.
Environment America is the federation of statewide, citizen-funded advocacy organizations working for a cleaner, greener, healthier future. www.EnvironmentAmerica.org