By Jennifer Peters, National Water Campaigns Coordinator
For the past decade, Clean Water Action has led the fight to restore pollution protections for small streams, wetlands and other water bodies that risk being poisoned or destroyed by developers, Big Coal or other polluters because of weak Clean Water Act policies adopted by the last Bush Administration. These weak policies were adopted in response to two misguided Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006, which effectively reversed nearly three decades of regulatory history. Prior to these two court decisions, federal agencies asserted broad authority over most rivers, lakes, streams and wetlands.
Why are these small streams and wetlands so important? Headwater and other small streams (even those that do not contain water year-round) flow into the drinking water supplies of nearly 117 million Americans. Wetlands filter pollutants out of water, reducing the amount of pollution that enters nearby rivers and streams. Wetlands also absorb floodwaters – one acre of wetland can typically hold one million gallons of water, which is enough water to fill 20,000 bath tubs! There is a strong economic benefit for protecting small streams and wetlands, too. For example, in the early 1990’s, New York City decided it was far more cost effective for it to work with upstream landowners to protect the watersheds that feed into the City’s drinking water supply than to invest billions of dollars in building a water filtration facility.
Fortunately, the Obama Administration recognizes the environmental and economic benefits of strong clean water protections. In April 2011, they introduced new Clean Water Act Guidance to fix some of the gaps left in the previous Administration’s clean water policy. The Obama Administration also made it clear that they intend to propose new regulations in early 2012, which would go even further to restore protections to streams, wetlands and other waters. Over 200,000 comments were submitted on the Guidance and the majority of comments voiced support for strong clean water protections.
Despite broad public support for strong clean water protections, some members in Congress seem willing to stop at nothing to block the Administration from moving forward on these protections. Why? Because powerful special interests such as Big Coal want a free pass to pollute our waters. Don’t let the voice of Big Coal drown out your own – tell President Obama that you support clean water!
In addition to writing President Obama a letter, you can join our Twitter Torrent on Thursday, December 15th! Beginning at 10am (ET) and continuing all day, Clean Water Action and our ally organizations will be tweeting up a storm to remind President Obama that we are counting on him to protect clean water. Please join us!