Fighting Clean Water Rules Rollbacks – What You Can Do

One of the first things most 3rd or 4th graders learn in earth science is that water runs downhill. By 6th or 7th grade kids can make the connection between pollution of waters uphill and contamination larger waterways in lower lying areas as the polluted water flows downhill.

The Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership thinks that rationale ought to be enough to include small river tributaries, headwaters and wetlands under the federal Clean Water Act to ensure protections for the waters of the United States (WOTUS). Despite the important role these waters play in keeping our environment, and our drinking water, clean and healthy the EPA is seeking to rollbacks protections.

In June the EPA issued its proposal to repeal the “waters of the United States regulation,” also known as the Clean Water Rule, that clarifies protections for headwaters, seasonal streams and wetlands. The Clean Water Rule clarifies protections for the headwaters, seasonal streams and wetlands that feed drinking water supplies for more than 117 million Americans, and protects the wetlands that provide critical flood storage and wildlife habitat. If the Clean Water Rule is repealed, federal protections will be reversed on 60 percent of U.S. streams and 20 million acres of wetlands. What is the goal of this policy reversal? To make it easier for these already-vulnerable lands to be used for extractive projects: open-pit mining, gas fracking, tar sands oil and other pipelines, all uses with tremendous impacts on our local ecologies, especially our local water systems.

If you think that our New Jersey streams and wetlands are protected because earlier generations in the Garden State had the foresight to create the nation’s strongest freshwater wetlands protection measures (the 1987 New Jersey Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act), think again. Since 1990 our Lower Raritan Watershed has lost 3,461 acres of forested wetlands, 2,891 acres of emergent wetlands, 1,086 acres of agricultural wetlands, and 593 acres of disturbed wetlands (Sustainable Raritan River Initiative, 2016). Negative effects of wetlands loss in the LRW include an intensification of flooding of our communities, and pollution loading in our Raritan River and area streams. And earlier this year the NJ Department of Environmental Protection submitted FWPA rules revisions proposals that significantly cut protections from these valuable lands (6.25.2017 – public comment on FWPA). Furthermore, a reduction in protections in neighboring New York and Pennsylvania – states without strong protection measures – will mean that pollution in those states will roll downhill right into New Jersey’s waters.

A NJSpotlight analysis indicates that this rollback could threaten more than half of New Jersey’s streams and wetlands, and could compromise drinking water for up to 6 million people. By repealing these federal and state rules we put polluter profits ahead of the needs of our communities, businesses, and environment. Repealing these rules is an assault on basic protections for clean water that puts millions at risk.

But here’s the thing — the EPA won’t get rid of the Clean Water Rule without public input. We need to flood the EPA with our comments. We need members of Congress and businesses speaking out. We need citizens demanding their elected officials fight for our right to clean water.

Here is a sample of some of the messages that ordinary people who want the existing rules on clean water strengthened have shared with the EPA. Please consider sharing your message, the comment period is open until August 28:

I am extremely fond of breathing clean air and drinking clean water, I would like these things to be available to my children and grandchildren. Please keep the regulations in place that help protect our air and water. Short term profits for corporations do not outweigh the long term benefit of a healthy environment.

As one of a majority of Americans I do not support any weakening of regulations that insure that we have clean water, clean air and healthy soil. I support the clean power regulations to reduce air pollution from coal plants. Those regulations will save many lives … Do not weaken the ability of the EPA to protect our clean water, soil and air.

Please work to keep our water, air, and land clean and safe for all people. Regulations that protect the water we drink, the air we breathe, the land where our food is grown, where our children play, the open spaces that people and animals need and enjoy should not be removed. This means that existing regulations on mining, industry, farming and other activities that require safe practices and healthy outcomes are also essential. Keep America clean and healthy for all.

The current administration has made it clear that their intent is to jeopardize the health of the planet in order to enrich the pockets of the fossil fuel industry … The blatant disregard for the quality of our country’s air and water is disheartening and will not be forgotten in upcoming election cycles.

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