Today, details leaked about the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed replacement for the Clean Water Rule. The new “Dirty Water Rule” would replace the landmark 2015 environmental protection regulation, jeopardizing sources of drinking water for one in three Americans that the Clean Water Rule protected. Bart Johnsen-Harris, the clean water advocate for Environment America, issued the following statement:
“The Dirty Water Rule is the most extreme attack on clean water in recent memory. This outrageous proposal upends the core mission of the EPA: protecting human health and the environment.
“From the Great Lakes to the Chesapeake Bay to Puget Sound, the health of our major waterways depends on the streams that feed them and wetlands that help filter out pollutants. Stripping protections from these streams also would put the drinking water sources for millions of Americans at risk.
“The new rule would significantly weaken the Clean Water Act, the bedrock environmental law that has protected and restored our waterways since 1972 by setting enforceable limits on pollution. Despite decades of precedent, a series of court cases in the early 2000s left in legal limbo the safeguards for more than half our nation’s streams and millions of acres of wetlands. The EPA’s 2015 Clean Water Rule reestablished protections for these waterways, which help provide drinking water to 117 million Americans. The rule also protects wetlands, which help filter out pollutants, provide wildlife habitats, and serve as buffers against the fiercest storms.
“Leaked details indicate that the new Dirty Water Rule would strip Clean Water Act safeguards from streams that flow only following rainfall and from wetlands not directly adjacent to larger waterways.
“Wetlands, streams, small rivers, bigger rivers, and lakes are all connected. If we allow mining or factory farms to pollute these small streams, we put our nation’s treasured waterways at risk.
“The Clean Water Act established a transpartisan vision of making all our waterways safe for swimming and fishing. Our federal government should be doing more to achieve this clean water vision, not creating dumping grounds for polluters.”