Press Release

NRDC’s Suh Urges Congress to Support Clean Water Proposal to Protect Drinking Supplies

WASHINGTON (February 3, 2015)— Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, today urged Congress to support a proposed new federal Clean Water Rule, noting, “The fate of nearly two million miles of streams and tens of millions of acres of wetlands hangs in the balance.”

In a letter to the leaders of two committees scheduled to hold a hearing Wednesday on the proposal by the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Suh said, “It is nearly impossible to overstate the importance of the Clean Water Rule,” noting that the small streams covered by the rule help supply the drinking water for one in three Americans. “However,” she said, “countless feeder streams, wetlands and other waters today lack guaranteed federal protection from pollution and destruction.”

EPA and the Corps proposed the rule last year, after extensive scientific study, to close a loophole in the Clean Water Act. The agencies are now working to finalize the rule after an extended public comment period, during which they received more than 800,000 comments in support of the proposal. Some in Congress want to block the rule.

A full text of the letter follows:

February 3, 2015

Dear Chairmen Inhofe and Shuster and Ranking Members Boxer and DeFazio:

On behalf of the 1.4 million members and online activists of the Natural Resources Defense Council, I write to express our views on the Environmental Protection Agency’s and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Clean Water Rule, which will be addressed at your hearing on February 4th, titled “Impacts of the Proposed Waters of the United States Rule on State and Local Governments.”  Please include this letter in the record of that hearing.

It is nearly impossible to overstate the importance of the Clean Water Rule.  The fate of nearly two million miles of streams and tens of millions of acres of wetlands hangs in the balance.  These waters provide numerous public benefits.  Wetlands filter polluted water, reduce the risk of flooding, and provide important recreational opportunities and wildlife habitat.  Headwater, seasonal and rain-dependent streams -- which the rule would better protect -- help supply drinking water for one in three Americans.  However, countless feeder streams, wetlands, and other waters today lack guaranteed federal protection from pollution and destruction.  Clear safeguards for these water bodies once existed, but have been eroded by policies adopted after two Supreme Court rulings.

Fortunately, the Court’s decisions make clear that at least those kinds of water bodies that collectively have a significant impact on the condition of downstream waters can be protected.  And the science is clear: EPA scientists surveyed over 1,200 pieces of peer-reviewed literature in a report that shows conclusively that tributaries, nearby waters, and a number of different types of additional water bodies directly affect the biological, chemical, and physical quality of other, usually larger, waters.  The independent Science Advisory Board reviewed this report and likewise found that the scientific evidence is overwhelming that currently-vulnerable waters are critical parts of the watersheds where they are found.

Because of the values that clean and healthy water bodies provide, and because the science so clearly supports taking action to protect these waters, hundreds of thousands of people and citizens’ groups have urged EPA and the Corps to finalize a strong rule promptly.  The agencies’ Clean Water Rule responds directly to this demand, and would restore safeguards for many of the waters that the scientific evidence justifies protecting.

This action is long overdue; many waters have been at risk, and thousands of water bodies have been denied protection, since 2001.  During that time, the issues surrounding which waters should be protected have been discussed and debated at length, and stakeholders on all sides have had numerous opportunities to express their views and provide constructive input to the agencies.  The formal comment period for the Clean Water Rule, for instance, was approximately seven months long.  Americans should not be forced to wait any longer for sensible clean water policies. 

During this week’s hearing, please support efforts to finalize a strong Clean Water Rule without any further delay.

/s/

Rhea Suh,

President

Natural Resources Defense Council
 

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