EPA Proposes Biggest Step for Clean Water in a Decade

Media Contacts

Environment Texas

AUSTIN – Today, in the biggest step forward for clean water in more than a decade, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed a rule to close loopholes in the Clean Water Act that leave 75% of Texas’ streams and millions of acres of wetlands at risk of unchecked pollution and development.

“With the drinking water for 11.5 million Texans at risk, we’re thrilled to see the EPA moving forward to protect our waterways,” said Luke Metzger, Director of Environment Texas, which has worked for more than a decade to restore Clean Water Act protections. “Today’s action is about securing that all our water is safe and healthy. Whether we’re swimming at Barton Springs, fishing in our favorite stream, or just drinking the water that comes from our tap, we need Texas waterways to be clean and protected.”

This rulemaking comes after a decade of uncertainty over the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act, following polluter-led Supreme Court challenges in 2001 and 2006. The rule, which could be finalized as soon as later this year, would restore Clean Water Act protections to many of Texas’s wetlands and three quarters of Texas streams.

“In its roughly 42 year history, the Clean Water Act has been incredibly successful,” said Bob Stokes, President of the Galveston Bay Foundation. “Galveston Bay and the rest of our nation’s waters are cleaner today than they were in 1972.  The rules announced today help us maintain clean water for our communities and reject the gradual chipping away of these important Clean Water Act protections.”

“After the oil spill this weekend, today’s announcement comes as some good news for Galveston Bay,” said Rep. Sylvester Turner of Houston, one of 20 Texas elected officials who wrote the President in 2012 in support of the clean water rule. “Protecting the wetlands which feed the bay is critical for keeping the water safe for swimming and fishing and I applaud the EPA for moving forward with these protections.”

“This rule would protect the streams that feed into rivers like the Colorado River and the wetlands that filter pollution from Galveston Bay,” said Metzger. “If we don’t protect these critical waters, we can’t ensure that any of our waterways are fully protected.”

With so much at stake, Environment Texas and its sister groups across the country have waged an intensive multi-year campaign to restore these Clean Water Act protections – including holding more than 30,000 face to face conversations with people across Texas, convening a community forum at Texas Wesleyan School of Law in Fort Worth, lobbying White House officials, and rallying more than thirty Texas elected officials and farmers to call on the Obama administration to take action.

“We rely on surface water, both streams and stock tanks to water our cattle, and we count on it being clean,” said Richard Luciano, owner of R2 Ranch, a major producer of grass-based Red Angus cattle, outside Fischer, Texas. “We also use the water recreationally. We work hard to be good stewards of the land and try to leave it in better shape than it was when we purchased our properties. I applaud the EPA for moving forward with restoring Clean Water Act protections for streams and wetlands.”

“Water is crucial to our health and our economic growth. I applaud the EPA for restoring these Clean Water Act protections,” said Rep. Mike Villarreal of San Antonio. “This decision will help to protect streams that feed the Edwards Aquifer and the San Antonio River, which are essential to our quality of life in this community.”

“Waterways like Barton Springs and Lady Bird Lake are essential to our way of life in Austin, but they are only as clean as the streams and wetlands that feed them,” said Rep. Elliott Naishtat of Austin. “Many of our waterways don’t have the protections they deserve, and have been vulnerable for far too long. I applaud President Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency for taking action to protect the waters that make Austin special.”

“EPA’s announcement is great news,” said Rep. Jessica Farrar of Houston. “Restoring Clean Water Act protections to all of the nation’s waters ensures that people can trust that clean water will be available for their use, whether for drinking water, recreation, or agriculture.”

In September 2013, the EPA announced it was moving forward with the rulemaking to restore Clean Water Act protections to waterways throughout Texas and across the country. It simultaneously released a draft science report on the connection between smaller streams and wetlands and downstream waters, which makes the scientific case for the rulemaking. Members of the public submitted more than 150,000 public comments in support of the report’s findings that these waterways merit protection under the law.

Many of the nation’s biggest polluters are already weighing in against the rulemaking, spreading misinformation about the rule’s potential impacts. While the EPA has announced the rule will preserve all existing Clean Water Act exemptions for the agricultural sector, the American Farm Bureau is insisting that the rulemaking is “a land grab” by the EPA and cause for “battle.” The American Farm Bureau Federation is one of 28 members of the Waters Advocacy Coalition, an industry group formed to lobby against clean water protections.

“When finalized, this rule would be the biggest step forward for clean water more than a decade,” said Metzger. “Thank you, Administrator Gina McCarthy and the EPA for fighting to protect clean water. Now let’s get the job done.”


Environment Texas is a statewide advocate for clean air, clean water and open spaces. For more information, visit www.EnvironmentTexas.org.