Loopholes in the Clean Water Act Closed
 

Over half of the nation’s streams regained federal protections under a final Clean Water Rule signed by top Obama administration officials in 2015. Now, we’re defending the rule in the courts and Congress to see it over the finish line.

The measure restores Clean Water Act safeguards to small streams and headwaters that have been vulnerable to development and pollution for nearly 10 years.

Public Interest Network organizations, including Environment America, Environmental Action, the Student PIRGs, Green Corps, and Impact organizers, joined forces with a strong coalition of clean water and environmental groups to see this win over the finish line.

"Our rivers, lakes, and drinking water can only be clean if the streams that flow into them are protected,” said Margie Alt, executive director with Environment America. “That’s why today’s action is the biggest victory for clean water in a decade.”

Photo: Sean Kennedy

By closing loopholes created by Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006, the announcement returns Clean Water Act protections to streams that feed into major water bodies from the Chesapeake Bay to Puget Sound, including drinking water supplies for 117 million Americans.

The court rulings had put small streams, headwaters and certain wetlands in a perilous legal limbo, allowing polluters and developers to dump into them or destroy them in many cases without a permit.

In a four-year period following the decisions, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had to drop more than 1,500 investigations against polluters, according to one analysis by The New York Times.

First proposed in March 2014, the joint rule by EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is backed by robust scientific review and has gained broad support across a wide range of constituencies.

More than 1,000 mayors, brewers, kayakers, anglers, small businesses, and farmers from across the country have joined a throng of citizens to submit more than 800,000 comments and register support for the rule.

Photo: Elena Nagornykh