Act Now to Protect Your Water from Congressional Attack

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Breaking: The House of Representatives is expected to vote as soon as Friday about your water – whether streams, ponds, and marshes around the country deserve protection from pollution and destruction.  A poisonous provision in the House spending bill that funds the Army Corps of Engineers would prohibit the Corps from better protecting aquatic resources, and clean water champions led by Rep. James Moran (D-VA) will demand that the House drop this measure.  Please contact your member of Congress now and ask him/her to vote for the clean water amendment on the Energy and Water appropriations bill. 

 Here’s a little background…

 Protecting America’s waters from pollution has been a uniquely difficult task for more than a decade, due to a legal mess triggered by the U.S. Supreme Court and made worse by the Bush administration. In recent weeks, an intense lobbying campaign by polluters and their congressional allies to block reforms has underscored just how difficult that task can be.

The anti-clean water campaign is unfolding just as the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are ready to issue guidelines to clarify what types of waters are protected under the landmark Clean Water Act.  As I have previously written, these guidelines are critical for public health and safety, as they will better protect water bodies that supply drinking water systems, filter contaminants from polluted water, and reduce flooding risks.

With the prospect of restored protections around the bend, including vital safeguards for our drinking water, polluters and their friends are mounting a furious effort at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue to block the impending guidelines.  The House of Representatives could vote as early as Friday to stop the guidelines, when it considers the bill funding the Army Corps of EngineersAt the same time, opponents of restoring these safeguards are pressuring the White House not to move the same EPA/Corps protections forward.

Public officials need to do right by the American people and protect our waters, not polluters.  The efforts to stop EPA and the Corps from doing their jobs are profoundly out of step with the American public.  As a recent poll in Ohio and Colorado shows, Americans overwhelming support restoring safeguards to small streams and wetlands and want their leaders in Washington to do the same.

The current state of confusion over protection for our waters particularly affects so-called “isolated” waters, including  about 20 percent of the roughly 110 million acres of wetlands in the continental United States, as well as intermittently flowing streams, of which there are nearly two million miles outside of Alaska.  These are streams that our children play in, and which are in backyards and communities all across the country – virtually everyone has a favorite childhood memory about the water. Failing to restore protections could jeopardize many headwater and other critical streams; those kinds of streams benefit more than 117 million Americans who get at least some of their drinking water from systems that rely on such streams for all or part of their water supply – look at this EPA analysis for how many people in your state this problem affects.

The guidelines would ensure that Clean Water Act protections apply to many bodies of water that have been inadequately covered for years, based on well-substantiated scientific research about the importance of those waters.  For instance, implementing the Clean Water Act became so difficult, time-consuming and expensive that, for instance, even after crude oil was discharged into Edwards Creek near Talco, Texas, EPA didn’t even bother to take action because it was too complicated to figure out whether the creek was covered by the Clean Water Act.

There are hundreds of such cases across America, as documented by the New York Times and by reports several conservation groups put out in 2004 and 2009, and as discussed in a report by EPA’s internal watchdog.  Preventing EPA and the Corps from addressing the legal mess that has given rise to these cases undermines legitimate law enforcement.  It can’t be allowed to stand.