Fighting Attempts to Weaken the Clean Water Rule

New EPA and Army Corps’ attempts to revoke Clean Water Act protections from waters is an illegal effort that unnecessarily risks drinking water, public health, and river health.

Yesterday, Upper Missouri Waterkeeper joined more than one-hundred clean water organizations in submitting two comment letters to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), urging the agencies to withdraw their Proposed Rule and meaningfully engage the public and states in any future process to review, rescind or revise the definition of “waters of the United States” (WOTUS).

Click here to read our first comment letter. Click here to read our second comment letter.

The federal Clean Water Act (CWA) is essential to protect rivers, streams, lakes, wetlands, and coastal waters, and to protect the people and communities that depend on clean water for their survival. A clear, broad definition of WOTUS is critical to protecting the drinking water for millions of Americans, reducing the public’s exposure to toxic metals and pollution, and preventing the contamination of thousands of miles of waterways across the country.

EPA and the Corps’s new, misguided effort to redefine WOTUS relies on a severely inadequate administrative process to revoke the Obama administration’s 2015 Clean Water Rule and replace it with what amounts to a vague, moving target subject to nearly unlimited agency discretion. The Proposed Rule is the epitome of the illegal, discretion abusing agency practices EPA Administrator Pruitt accuses others of engaging in. It violates the CWA, the Administrative Procedure Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act, and clearly ignores Congress’s intent for the CWA to fully protect the nation’s waters and aquatic ecosystems.

The CWA’s definition of WOTUS is essential to the protection of human health, the wellbeing of communities, the success of local, state and national economies, and the functioning of our nation’s vast, interconnected aquatic ecosystems, as well as the many threatened and endangered species that depend on those resources.

[highlight] If a stream, river, lake, or wetland is not included in the definition of “waters of the United States,” untreated toxic, biological, chemical, and radiological pollution can be discharged directly into those waters without meeting any of the CWA’s permitting and treatment requirements. Excluded waterways could be dredged, filled and polluted with impunity because the CWA’s most fundamental human health and environmental safeguard — the prohibition on unauthorized discharges — would no longer apply. [/highlight]

Montana’s fabled outdoors heritage – and key outdoors-based economy – depends on strong protections over all types of waterways, whether they be upstream, downstream, or connected though groundwater. It is critical that the strongest pollution protections possible extend to Montana’s headwaters, hydrologically-connected groundwater, ditches and wetlands so that future generations can inherit the same natural wonders and clean drinking water that we now enjoy.