Friday 23 February 2018

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (Dec. 8, 2016): We at Waterkeepers Chesapeake, a coalition of 19 Riverkeepers, Coastkeepers and Shorekeepers from around the Chesapeake Bay watershed, ask the U.S. Senate to scrutinize and reject the selection of Scott Pruitt as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the incoming Trump administration.

The appointment of Pruitt, a self-confessed climate change denier and mouth piece for the oil and gas industry, is an insult to Americans who not only deserve, but have a right to clean air for breathing and clean water for drinking. This appointment will take America in the wrong direction. We urge the United States Senate to block confirmation of this appointment.  

The science of climate change is clear. With the rise of fake news, it is easy to muddle facts and confuse the public. Alongside the scientific community, the U.S. military has acknowledged and is preparing for a future with conflicts resulting from rising seas, population migration, severe drought, increasingly violent storms and more. 

“Our Waterkeepers are on the front lines seeing the impacts of pollution, rising sea levels and climate change,” said Betsy Nicholas, executive director of Waterkeepers Chesapeake. “The leader of the EPA should be someone who believes in the core mission of the Agency. Pruitt is not the man for the job.”

We recognize that most Americans want to be proactive when faced with threats. In the 1950s, we worked to beat back smog and air pollution by passing the Clean Air Act. When faced with significant impairment of our nation’s waterways, we passed the Clean Water Act. We banned HFCs to protect the ozone layer and even retrofitted major American cities with public sewer and water to eliminate public health threats of diseases like typhoid and cholera.

The fact is, EPA is our top pollution-fighting agency. Unfortunately, the president-elect has selected a fox to be in charge of the EPA henhouse. We strongly believe that the person administering the agency should not only understand and acknowledge the threats of fossil fuels, pollution and climate change, but be willing to administer the laws that he is sworn to uphold. 

Waterkeepers throughout the Chesapeake and coastal bays watershed have remained vigilant to enforce local, state and federal laws. We work with citizens across five states to monitor watersheds and hold polluters accountable. We have significant work to continue to clean up the Chesapeake Bay from both point and non-point sources of pollution.

We will continue to do our job. 

We urge the Senate to do theirs. 

Contact: Mitchelle Stephenson, Communications Manager • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

A message from Waterkeepers Chesapeake Executive Director Betsy Nicholas:

Waterkeepers Chesapeake is a coalition of 19 Waterkeepers from around the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. For years, we have worked to protect our most precious natural resource: water.

The President-elect is beginning to fill out cabinet and executive agency positions, giving us a preview of what kind of administration is coming to Washington, DC in January. Based on that preview, we are extremely concerned about our water resources.

Waterkeepers, along with our staff and volunteers, have worked tirelessly toward the goal of cleaning up the environment and restoring clean water to the Chesapeake Bay and the Coastal Bays and our local rivers and streams. On a daily basis, we monitor water quality. We hold polluters accountable. We advocate at the local, state and federal level.

We work every day toward the goal of swimmable, fishable, drinkable water for you and future generations.

We will not see that work reversed.

The president-elect has talked of rolling back regulations in very general terms. He provides no details. We don’t know what he has in mind yet, but we do know that regulatory oversight is sometimes all that stands between safe drinking water and water poisoned by things not limited to shoddy infrastructure, industrial pollution, and energy interests (drilling, exploration, legacy and transport). Ask the people of Flint, Michigan. It isn’t pretty when you can’t trust the water that comes out of the tap.

We will steadfastly oppose regulatory policies that threaten water quality. We will oppose any attempts to weaken the Clean Water Act.

The new administration has signaled an interest in looking backward by pushing for throwback energy resources, like coal and fracking. Why? We know that renewables are cleaner and are the key to a healthy environment and better jobs.

We will steadfastly oppose a return to energy sources that foul and threaten water and air quality.

The new administration is motioning toward appointing cabinet positions, particularly those in charge of protecting and conserving America’s great natural resources like the Interior Department and the Environmental Protection Agency, with individuals who deny climate change and would open our federal parks to oil and gas extraction.

We will steadfastly oppose those who ignore the science and threaten public safety by ignoring the threats of climate change.

We all deserve a future that includes clean water.

We will continue to fight for clean water for everyone, now and in the future!

Coal Trains: Dust Pollution is a Real Problem

If you live, work or commute along the Anacostia, Potomac, Susquehanna or James Rivers, you have probably seen train cars filled to overflowing with coal traveling alongside these waterways. These railcars are typically not covered, so the dust flows freely into the air as they make their way down the rail line. In fact, an average rail car loses about 500 lbs. of coal dust — dust that contains mercury, arsenic, uranium and other toxins harmful to human health and wildlife (including fish and aquatic life in rivers adjacent to the train tracks). In fact, our Riverkeepers have even found chunks of coal along river banks and in rivers. In November 2007, six cars of coal derailed into the Anacostia River.

Waterkeepers in Washington State scored a big win in federal court recently on the issue of pollutants from coal trains. In a case (Sierra Club Inc. et al. v. BNSF Railway et al.), the railway company admitted that an average of 60,000 lbs. of coal can be lost from each 120-car train.The court ruled that these trains are “point sources” of pollution under the Clean Water Act. This means that the rail company can be held liable for coal discharged directly into navigable waters. Not only did the Court find that railway companies can be liable for coal discharged into nearby waterways, but that Waterkeepers in the state had the legal ability to sue the railway company for such discharges.

The full trial is currently underway and Waterkeepers Chesapeake will closely follow this trial as a ruling against the train company could have profound implications for rail transport of coal in the Chesapeake region.


Photos (above to the left) of fugitive train-sourced coal ash dust located a few feet from the James River, a public walking trail, parkland, homes and businesses...a daily routine affecting families and drinking water sources of millions of Virginians.