Press Release | October 26, 2020

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Congressman Donald McEachin, and Advocates host Townhall marking 48th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act

WASHINGTON, D.C. — To highlight the 48th anniversary of the Clean Water Act becoming law, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Congressman Donald McEachin (D-VA), state and tribal officials, and other clean water advocates hosted a virtual townhall to discuss the Trump administration’s assault on our clean water and outline what needs to be done to reverse these rollbacks and strengthen clean water safeguards for the future.

The following are excerpts from the townhall participants.

Attorney General Xavier Becerra of California

“Donald Trump is fighting the currents. The American people understand that we’ve got to do something; so when it comes to protecting clean water, most families are with us. You don’t have to be from the coasts, you don’t have to live next to a lake or a river, most families are with us. These are not normal times, this is not the way we should do business…we’re all here to work because we want to return to normal because we know normal is only the first step in making progress. We have to get back to saving the planet and you can’t do it when you can’t even act normal.”

Representative A. Donald McEachin (D-VA)

“Our country still faces major water resource and pollution challenges, especially within low-income communities, communities of color, and Tribal communities. They continue to be disproportionately exposed to toxins in their drinking water and have fewer resources with which to manage the danger. Instead of building on decades of progress and working to protect our waters for all Americans, the Trump administration has worked tirelessly to undermine the Clean Water Act by rolling back countless vital safeguards and allowing corporate polluters to attack our health and safety, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Abigail Dillen, President, Earthjustice 

“When Congress passed the Clean Water Act, rivers were literally catching on fire. Waste was flowing untreated into our waterways; mines, mills, factories, refineries, power plants, chemical plants, every polluting industry was freely dumping toxins into our rivers, lakes, and streams. And when the Clean Water Act became law, polluters were finally forced to clean up — and we have seen dramatic gains for clean water as a result. But the reality is that so much more work must be done. According to recent surveys from the Environmental Protection Agencies, nearly half of our rivers and streams and more than a third of our lakes are polluted and are unfit for swimming, fishing, and drinking. And Black, brown, and Native American communities are bearing the overwhelming brunt of that pollution.”

Rebecca Roose, Director, Water Protection Division, New Mexico Environment Department

“The Clean Water Act adeptly blends planning, policy, and science, and balances environmental protection with economic progress. It includes rigorous regulatory frameworks with clear and critical enforcement authorities, while also leveraging voluntary program approaches to protect and restore water quality.

“In New Mexico, nearly 90 percent of our rivers and streams are ephemeral. These waters are no longer federally protected as of today. We are fighting alongside other states and NGOs to restore the power and rigor of the Clean Water Act.”

Geoff Gisler, Senior Attorney and Leader of Clean Water Program, Southern Environmental Law Center

“The reason for the [Clean Water Act] is to protect our communities because clean water is really the foundation for what we do as a society…we know that as we lose more wetlands, as we lose more small streams that when the next storm comes, the floods will be worse. More communities will be totally upended, more families will be forced out of their homes. So losing the protection of the Clean Water Act for those wetlands is devastating for the entire southeastern coast and across the country.”

Oliver Whaley, Executive Director, Navajo Nation EPA

“It is more important than ever to protect our waterways in the Navajo Nation and for tribes in general as water is sacred as it’s the foundation of all life. We not only drink it, as does wildlife and vegetation around us, but we use it for ceremonies, religious and spiritual uses as well.

Tribal nations have and are still are being systematically held down by a lot of our current laws and policies…the idea that the federal government can sell something as sovereignty without all the pieces in place and the hurdles removed for tribes to really be successful is really quite honestly like being spit in the face.”

Julie Kenkel, Registered Nurse and representative of Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments

“In Arizona our state and communities are so reliant on water, it’s so scarce, so anything that we do get is so precious. With the recent rollbacks that deregulate ephemeral waters, over 90 percent of the streams and waters that we depend on are unregulated.

Right now there is already so much stress on people to try to remain healthy and safe and I worry that contamination in our water sources could exacerbate health issues for people and may lead them to be more susceptible to serious diseases like the coronavirus.

The Clean Water Act has done so much to protect our water sources, especially here in Arizona. One of my hopes and goals is that everyone has access to quality basic resources like water. The Clean Water Act has been so important in helping to achieve this and I hope that it can continue to do so.”

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