While the LRWP and other New Jersey non-profits are working hard to clean up our waters and secure clean, safe drinking water for future generations, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is working to roll back the Clean Water Act. The current administration is rushing through a repeal of the Clean Water Rule and we have until August 28 during public comment to try and stop it. It’s critical for your voice to be heard in D.C.
What is the Clean Water Rule?
In 2015, the previous administration clarified and finalized protections for streams and wetlands across the country. These safeguards protected the small streams that feed the drinking water sources for nearly 1 in 3 Americans. They protected wetlands throughout the nation that filter pollutants from water, absorb floodwaters, and provide habitat for countless wildlife. In fact, industry and other permittees asked for this clarification as an end to regulatory confusion about which of the country’s waterways the Clean Water Act protects. The rule was supported by millions of Americans.
The Clean Water Rule followed a robust public process. Before finalizing the Clean Water Rule in 2015, EPA held more than 400 meetings with stakeholders across the country and published a synthesis of more than 1,200 peer-reviewed scientific publications, which showed that the small streams and wetlands the Rule safeguards are vital to larger downstream waters.
What is this administration proposing?
Administrator Pruitt does not want to implement the Clean Water Rule. Instead, he plans to rush through the repeal of the Clean Water Rule this year, then propose and finalize a less protective rule in less than a year. President Trump signed an Executive Order instructing the EPA to propose a new rule based on former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Scalia’s opinion of which waterways the Clean Water Act protects. A rule following Scalia’s interpretation would result in drastic exclusions of wetlands and streams from protection; fewer than half of wetlands and fewer than 40 percent of streams would receive federal protection. If that scenario comes to pass, then the nation’s waters will be less protected than they were in 1975!
Who is opposing the Clean Water Rule?
Lobbyists for oil and gas producers, homebuilders, and farm bureaus.
What is at stake?
Our right to clean drinking water is in jeopardy. Rolling back the rule will result in the same regulatory confusion that resulted in broad-based calls for clarity about which of our nation’s waterways the Clean Water Act protects. Rolling back the rule is bad governance, bad for businesses who rely on regulatory certainty, and bad for our communities that deserve clean water.
How you can help
The LRWP has submitted this letter (8.16.17 – LRWP letter to EPA re CWA rules repeal) to Administrator Pruitt. You can help by submitting a request to stop the repeal of this important rule on or before Monday, August 28, 11:59pm EST. Submit your online comment to the Federal eRulemaking Portal to STOP THE REPEAL! Sample language below:
RE: Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OW-2017-0203
Dear Administrator Pruitt:
The last thing we should do is weaken protections for clean water. I oppose the proposed repeal of the Clean Water Rule. Let the courts do their jobs and review the 2015 rulemaking.
This roll-back is dangerous. Clean water is the backbone of healthy communities and essential to a strong economy. Repealing this commonsense safeguard puts all of that at risk. The proposed repeal will remove Clean Water Act protections for the streams that feed the drinking water sources for more than 1 in 3 Americans. It will endanger 20 million acres of wetlands that provide habitat for wildlife throughout the nation. It could allow the pollution and destruction of the water resources small businesses like craft breweries and outdoor recreation companies rely on. Moreover, property values would be negatively impacted.
Repealing the Clean Water Rule is shortsighted and flies in the face of public opinion. More than 800,000 Americans supported the Clean Water Rule when it was proposed. It is grounded in science and the law. It is an essential tool to help us to get to goal of ensuring all of our waters are swimmable, fishable, and drinkable.
[Include your own thoughtful, compelling comment of how clean water is important to you]
Please stop the repeal process and get back to EPA’s mission – protecting human health and the environment.
Thank you for considering my concerns.
Lower Raritan Watershed, New Jersey
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.