Clean water is a wholesome family value if there ever was one. Right?
Sadly, today, protecting clean water is just another battleground for ideological politics.
Right now, the EPA is collecting comments on proposed rules to strengthen the Clean Water Act by clarifying which streams, wetlands and other waters are protected, including the small streams and tributaries that are so important to the ecological health of watersheds.
Proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) in March 2014, the rule is much needed because polluter-friendly court decisions and federal policy changes in the last decade have put at risk Clean Water Act protections for nearly 60 percent of our nation’s stream miles and at least 20 million acres of wetlands in the continental United States.
Drinking water sources for more than 117 million people in our country are at risk.
Hundreds of thousands of public comments have been submitted in support of the rule, and more will come in before the Oct. 20 close of the comment period. But this grassroots support could be trumped by a cynical move known as H.R. 5078, the “Regulatory Overreach Protection Act of 2014.”
The bill may be voted on as soon as Wednesday. It would sweep these science-based clean water protection rules off the legislative agenda. It will also make it more difficult for the EPA to protect water quality in the future.
EPA’s new rule is a common sense proposal based on the best scientific understanding of how streams and wetlands affect water quality downstream. It advances public benefits including flood protection, groundwater recharge, wildlife habitat, outdoor recreation and filtering of pollution to protect human health.
When finalized, the rule will reduce regulatory confusion and delay, and protect the water resources on which our local economies and communities depend. Connecticut’s legislative delegation should shout out in support of the EPA rule and make it a priority to urge colleagues to reject H.R. 5078.
Melissa Everett, Ph.D., is CT Energy Program Manager for the Clean Water Action/ Clean Water Fund.