WASHINGTON -- Community leaders from coast to coast convened Wednesday for a virtual town hall hosted by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) to advocate for a robust response to the Trump administration’s harmful clean water rollbacks. Rep. DeFazio, the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and clean water advocates and constituents discussed the Clean Water for All Act. The bill, which he recently introduced, would repeal the Trump administration’s “Dirty Water Rule.”
“The Dirty Water Rule is the worst rollback in the history of the Clean Water Act. By removing protections from thousands of small streams across the country, it threatens millions of Americans’ drinking water.” said Environment America Clean Water Program Director John Rumpler. “Now Congress has a chance to stop it.”
From the Chesapeake Bay to Puget Sound, 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. Yet the Dirty Water Rule wipes out protections for countless streams and wetlands -- a move that was recently rebuked by EPA’s own science advisors.
Several groups joined the town hall to call for a strong and immediate response to the reckless rollback. Representatives from both national and community organizations spoke of the impacts on the American people of removing federal protections that have ensured safe drinking water.
In addition to being criticized by EPA’s own scientists, the Dirty Water Rule is being challenged in court by Environment America and several conservation groups, and opposed by the overwhelming number of public comments submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The virtual town hall offered another chance for constituents to voice their support for clean water protections. Speakers and participants of the town hall discussed emerging threats to clean water from water infrastructure and water safety during COVID-19 to utility shutoff moratoriums.
At the town hall, Rep. DeFazio spoke of the local impact of the Clean Water Act. “I hear now that the Willamette River is now swimmable, drinkable and fishable. When I was growing up it was an open sewer.” As he pointed to iconic rivers across the country he also called on his fellow members of Congress to act. “There is no way this can be a partisan issue,” he said, adding that, “this just cries out for national action.”
“As we heard again today, Americans are clear in their call for clean water,” said Rumpler. “The Clean Water for All Act is an essential step toward protecting the rivers and streams which are vital to our health, environment and way of life.”