Thursday 16 August 2018

Last week, the scandal-ridden EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt resigned. We, along with other environmental groups, rejoiced in his resignation – but unfortunately our work to stop rollbacks of environmental protections and to fight the take over of the EPA by the fossil fuels industry is not over. The likely new head of the EPA, Andrew Wheeler, is expected to be just as bad as Pruitt, and maybe worse given his expertise in navigating the federal legislative and regulatory spheres.

Clean water is essential for the health and sustainability of our families, communities and environment. Lest we forget -- we all live downstream. We have a responsibility, as a nation, to control pollution at its source and protect the drinking water sources of all residents – regardless of where they live. Here are two examples of direct assaults on our clean water and drinking water resources and how we are joining fights against these outrageous threats to your health and your communities.

Clean Water Rule

In 2015, the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers passed the Clean Water Rule, resulting in better protections for a variety of streams, ponds, and wetlands that were vulnerable to pollution. Waterkeepers Chesapeake submitted comments that were supportive of the rule’s passage. The Rule was based on sound science and received broad public support.

Despite this  -- last year, President Trump urged the EPA to repeal the 2015 Clean Water Rule. This rule would rollback the new definition, reverting us back to the less protective definitions of Waters of the United States (WOTUS). Waterkeepers Chesapeake joined over one hundred other Waterkeeper organizations across the United States in signing onto Waterkeeper Alliance’s comments on these detrimental rollbacks. In the Chesapeake region, streams and tributaries in the upper reaches of the Susquehanna, Potomac, Shenandoah, James and many other rivers would not receive protections under the Clean Water Act if the Clean Water Rule is repealed.

The proposed bad “replacement rule” to severely constrict Clean Water Act jurisdiction (superseding the 2015 Clean Water Rule) is at the Office of Management and Budget for a last review before publication, most likely sometime in August. That publication will initiate a public comment period. Follow us on social media and sign up for our email to stay up to date and to take action against this assault on our clean water resources. Also visit www.protectsouthernwater.org to get the latest updates and to take action.

Loophole to Allow Polluted Groundwater

The EPA and courts have historically interpreted the Clean Water Act does regulate pollutants that travel a short distance through groundwater, soils, or the air before reaching surface waters. Incredibly, EPA is now considering a change to this long-standing interpretation. The EPA wants to allow a company to release pollutants from a pipe a few feet short of a waterway. These pollutants would travel a short distance underground before entering the surface water and would not be regulated under the Clean Water Act. In May, Waterkeepers Chesapeake joined over 130 other Waterkeeper organizations, Waterkeeper Alliance and national groups in submitting comments on the baseless regulatory change. There is no legitimate basis for the EPA to call into question the interpretation of the Clean Water Act that a pollutant discharge which travels from a point source to surface water across hydrological connections may be subject to NPDES permitting requirements. The EPA’s Notice published in the Federal Register provides no meaningful support for a contrary conclusion.

In response to the resignation of Scott Pruitt as EPA Administrator, Waterkeepers Chesapeake released this statement:

“Scott Pruitt was unfit to lead the EPA. He demonstrated this with his disdain for protecting the environment and public health, his systematic attack on the EPA itself and any science-based regulations, and his unapologetic support of polluting industries. We are happy to see him go. We thank our nonprofit partners like the Environmental Integrity Project and the free press for their relentless pursuit of the truth about Pruitt’s unethical management of the EPA and his long list of scandals.

We will continue to oppose any cabinet or agency head, including Pruitt’s replacement, who attacks our environmental protections, poses a danger to public health, and ignores basic ethical standards in running a government agency.”