by Jonathan A. Scott, Clean Water Action Communications Staff
Today’s good news, in two parts.
First: Today, roughly 12 years after pro-polluter court decisions and actions by the Bush Administration weakened critical Clean Water Act protections, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is taking important steps to clarify what water resources qualify for federal protections. Once finalized, this action will close protection gaps that have left drinking water sources for 117 million Americans vulnerable to contamination and destruction.
This action follows more than a decade of campaigning by Clean Water Action and allies. In 2011 during the brief official public comment period, EPA received more than 290,000 comments, more than 90% of which favored this EPA action to restore protections.
Second: Also today, EPA released comprehensive, peer-reviewed research documenting how important it is that all water resources – even small upstream tributaries and wetlands – must be protected. You can’t protect just some of the water. It’s all connected. Common sense tells us this. The famous “We all live downstream” adage, EPA’s research findings now show is consistent with what science is also telling us.
For a time, there — with longstanding Clean Water Act protections no longer certain and water quality surveys showing the first declines in years — polluters appeared to be getting the upper hand. The cynics among us put forth a new take on that old adage, “We can’t all live upstream.”
There’s one other reason why today’s news of EPA’s action and new science findings is so important. As long as these critical gaps in Clean Water Act protections are allowed to stand, the foundation of all of our most important environmental and health protections is also in jeopardy. If all of the nation’s waters no longer qualified for federal protections, what would be next? Would only some of our air receive Clean Air Act protections? How long until things were rolled back to where they were in the 1960s and 1970s when satirist Tom Lehrer proclaimed in one of his hit numbers, “If you visit American city, you will find it very pretty. Only one thing of which you must beware. Don’t drink the water and don’t breath the air.”
Today’s news does not mean EPA’s work – or Clean Water Action’s – is done. On the contrary, polluters have been enjoying the status quo of weakened protections and will fight tooth and nail to keep things the way they’ve been. Clean Water Action and our 1 million members are committed to seeing this fight to restore the nation’s historic clean water commitments through to the end.