Senior Attorney Frank Holleman testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Wednesday about the essential role of citizen enforcement for clean water. In the hearing, Senators were considering a request from the Environmental Protection Agency about whether it should re-evaluate the 40-year EPA position that the Clean Water Act protects waterways from toxic pollution carried from industrial sources to rivers and lakes through groundwater.
Citizens represented by SELC have been enforcing this aspect of the Clean Water Act to protect their water resources. Polluters are trying to cut off this citizen law enforcement by restricting the historic protections of the Clean Water Act and leaving all law enforcement to state agencies.
In the Southeast, SELC has ended up in various courts over numerous instances where states have failed to protect local water supplies from coal ash and pipeline pollution. Holleman litigated many of these cases and has seen first-hand how the law plays out.
“The polluters well know that, if this pollution is left to the state agencies alone, the polluters will get off the hook,” Holleman told the Senators.
He went on to recount a number of the coal ash cases fought or underway across the Southeast and the many times that local communities have taken the law into their own hands and enforced the Clean Water Act to protect their water resources.
“This EPA notice is not about regulatory certainty,” Holleman testified. “It is about allowing large polluters to pollute without meaningful enforcement. We ask you all to stand up for the rights of citizens, for property and water rights, and for clean water.”
A video of the full hearing is available on the committee website; Holleman begins his testimony at the 48-minute mark.