Administration announces plan to gut clean water protections

Today the Environmental Protection Agency released a new proposal that, if approved, would remove clean water protections that have been in place for generations. The breadth of this reversal makes it one of the most dangerous proposals for people’s health, clean water, and our economy that we’ve seen from this administration.

Big polluters could not have crafted a bigger free pass to dump if they wrote it themselves,” said Blan Holman, managing attorney for SELC’s Charleston office. “This administration’s efforts to dismantle the Clean Water Act are a full-frontal assault on one of our country’s most important and longstanding environmental safeguards that has prevented unchecked and unlimited pollution from contaminating our waterways and drinking water sources for nearly 50 years. Protecting the South’s waters against pollution is our top priority. In the face of this serious threat, SELC and our partners will fight this dangerous proposal in court.”

At the urging of big industrial polluters, today’s action would gut essential parts of the Clean Water Act, America’s bedrock environmental law, by removing protections for small streams, tributaries, and wetlands. The proposal is unprecedented in scope and would strip protections against pollution for thousands of miles of streams in the U.S.

If finalized, this proposal could allow more pollution into America’s rivers, lakes, and drinking water sources, which are only as clean as the source waters that feed them. Without upstream safeguards in place, the waters that millions of Southerners depend on for drinking water, and that support the Southeast's multi-billion dollar tourism economy, would be at risk. These are waterways where families picnic and fish, and many escape from the pressures of everyday.

The administration has been telegraphing this attack on the Clean Water Act starting with an Executive Order issued in February 2017, and SELC has led a region-wide campaign to raise awareness of the assault and activate citizens who depend upon clean water. In fall 2018, SELC and partners delivered a petition from tens of thousands of Southerners asking the administration not to move forward with this risky proposal.

Now there will be another critical chance for the public to weigh in. EPA is required by law to ask for and consider public comments before finalizing its proposal. Citizen comments supporting clean water are critically important. Once the public comment period opens in the coming days, SELC will be leading the charge with our partners across the region to mobilize as many public comments as possible.

The Clean Water Act was enacted nearly 50 years ago with strong bipartisan support from a Congress that had witnessed rivers ignite and riverbanks empty of visitors as pollution moved in. Many Americans can’t remember a time when our waterways were so polluted, but that’s not a reason to take these protections for granted – it’s a reason to keep them in place. Watch for information at ProtectSouthernWater.com in the coming weeks about how you can help us protect clean water across the South and the nation.

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