Congressional Hearing Emphasizes Great Need for Proposed Clean Water Rule

Washington, DC— A joint Congressional hearing earlier today on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers’ (Corps) proposed rule further amplified the need for clarification on what streams, rivers, lakes and wetlands are protected under the Clean Water Act.

Organized by Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) and Representative Bill Shuster (D-PA), the hearing included testimony from EPA administrator, Gina McCarthy, and Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, Jo-Ellen Darcy. 

Republican lawmakers appeared to be a vocal minority in opposition as compared to the more than 800,000 comments submitted from small businesses, states, local elected officials, sportsmen groups, health organizations and conservation groups in support of the proposed rule.

“We applaud our legislators who stood up for the millions of Americans, more than one third of the population, whose drinking water quality is currently at risk for pollution,” said Navis Bermudez from the Southern Environmental Law Center. “By supporting the rule, our leaders have shown it is possible to strike a balance between protecting clean water and pursuing economic opportunities as long as necessary safeguards are in place.”

Opponents of the rule have demanded that EPA not act without a final, peer-reviewed report. The agency’s January 15th release of its final scientific report, Connectivity of Streams and Wetlands to Downstream Waters: A Review and Synthesis of the Scientific Evidence, confirms there is strong scientific evidence to support the fact that streams and many wetlands are connected to downstream waters in a significant way.

During the last public comment period, SELC submitted comments on behalf of over 40 environmental and conservation groups making the case that depressional wetlands, such as crater-like Carolina bays found on the Southeastern coastal plain, should be covered under the final rule as a category of waters of the United States. 

“Considering the persistent spread of misinformation and hyperbole around the proposed rule, it is more important than ever that we continue the conversation and move forward in clarifying these protections,” said Bill Sapp from the Southern Environmental Law Center. “The science behind the rule is clear, and supporting the process behind the most significant federal rulemaking on water protections in three decades will help to preserve our rivers, streams and wetlands, now and for future generations.” 

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The Southern Environmental Law Center is a regional nonprofit using the power of the law to protect the health and environment of the Southeast (Virginia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama). Founded in 1986, SELC's team of more than 60 legal and policy experts represent more than 100 partner groups on issues of climate change and energy, air and water quality, forests, the coast and wetlands, transportation, and land use. www.SouthernEnvironment.org

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