September 14, 2017

Cardin, Carper Lead Letter Opposing EPA’s Proposal to Undo Clean Water Rule Protections

“The 2015 rule recognizes the necessity of protecting our Nation’s small streams, wetlands, and other critical waters, including streams that feed into the drinking water sources of 117 million Americans”

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.), along with 19 colleagues, have submitted a letter to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army Douglas Lamont opposing the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) plan to repeal the 2015 Clean Water Rule. The letter, submitted for the official docket, expresses the need to prioritize Americans’ right to safe, clean water over ideological differences. EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) have been accepting comments on the proposed rule change since July 27. In their letter, the lawmakers expressed concern that as a result of the repeal, the sources of drinking water for 117 million Americans remain unprotected. They pointed out that years of agency work and independent scientific review went into the development of the Clean Water Rule, along with more than 400 public meetings and one million comments – 87 percent of which supported the rule.

Cardin and Carper encourage the public to submit their own comments before the docket closes on September 27. The senators worked with other stakeholders to pressure the EPA and USACE to extend the deadline from the previous August 28 cutoff. 

“Every community in America needs clean, safe water every day for every resident and President Trump’s repeal of the Clean Water Rule puts that in serious jeopardy. The move is blatantly partisan and can best be described as shortsighted, and dangerous,” said Senator Cardin, a senior member of the Environment and Public Works Committee. “The Clean Water Rule expanded important protections to small streams and wetlands which, in turn, would have protected our drinking water, better safeguarded our communities from floods, and protected habitat for wildlife in Maryland and throughout the nation. In its 45 years, the Clean Water Act has been an unequivocal success. We need more protection for our water not less.”

“The final Clean Water Rule relied on 1,200 peer-reviewed scientific publications, 400 stakeholder meetings across the country, and more than one million public comments. The short-sighted withdrawal of this rule means businesses across the country lack the certainty they’ve desired for years, and millions of families remain at greater risk of exposure to polluted water,” said Senator Carper, Ranking Member of the Environment and Public Works Committee. “This administration should listen to sound science and the overwhelming public opinion that we need the Clean Water Rule to better protect Americans and their families.”

“The water bodies at the center of the Clean Water Rule serve critical functions, from providing drinking water to filtering out pollution and replenishing groundwater,” the lawmakers wrote. “The 2015 rule recognizes the necessity of protecting our nation’s small streams, wetlands, and other critical waters, including streams that feed into the drinking water sources of 117 million Americans. Protecting these waters also directly benefits iconic bodies of water like Puget Sound, the Mississippi River, the Great Lakes, and the Chesapeake Bay. These waters support our communities, hunters and anglers, and water-dependent businesses like breweries and outdoor recreation. Because of these impacts, the agencies found that the public benefits of the rule would be as high as $572 million per year and would significantly outweigh the rule’s compliance costs.

“Now more than ever, it is clear that too many communities have to worry about access to clean, safe water,” they continued. “Vigorously implementing the Clean Water Act helps protect clean drinking water for everyone. We therefore urge your agencies to immediately withdraw the misguided proposal to repeal the 2015 Clean Water Rule.”

In addition to Senators Cardin and Carper, the letter was signed by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Robert Casey (D-Pa.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Margaret Wood Hassan (D-N.H.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.).

The full letter is below and at this link.

 

The Honorable Scott Pruitt                                        

Administrator                                                             

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency                      

Office of the Administrator                                       

Mail Code 1101A                                                      

1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.                             

Washington, DC 20460                                             

 

Mr. Douglas W. Lamont

Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army

Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works

Department of the Army

108 Army Pentagon

Washington, DC 20310

 

Dear Administrator Pruitt and Deputy Assistant Secretary Lamont:

We write in strong opposition to your proposed rule to weaken safeguards for the Nation’s waterways. The proposed rule to repeal the 2015 Clean Water Rule upends the many years the EPA and US Army Corps of Engineers have taken to draft a rule that gave our constituents—and the cities, counties, states and businesses in which they live and work—the certainty that they need. As members of the United States Senate, we have a strong institutional interest in protecting Congress’ original intent to protect important water bodies throughout the United States when it passed the Clean Water Act.

As we celebrate 45 years of the Clean Water Act this year, we recognize the enormous progress the nation has made in improving water quality, but realize that achieving the law’s core objective—“to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters”—will take continued vigilance. That is why we reject your efforts to make it harder for our country’s vital water bodies to meet that objective.

The 2015 Clean Water Rule was created to clear up longstanding confusion over which water bodies are protected by the Clean Water Act. The agencies took a pragmatic approach to more clearly define which water bodies get guaranteed coverage under the Clean Water Act and which ones are exempt through using the most up-to-date science and grounding the rule’s safeguards on widely-accepted legal standards.

The water bodies at the center of the Clean Water Rule serve critical functions, from providing drinking water to filtering out pollution and replenishing groundwater. The 2015 rule recognizes the necessity of protecting our Nation’s small streams, wetlands, and other critical waters, including streams that feed into the drinking water sources of 117 million Americans. Protecting these waters also directly benefits iconic bodies of water like Puget Sound, the Mississippi River, the Great Lakes, and the Chesapeake Bay. These waters support our communities, hunters and anglers, and water-dependent businesses like breweries and outdoor recreation. Because of these impacts, the agencies found that the public benefits of the rule would be as high as $572 million per year and would significantly outweigh the rule’s compliance costs.

The agencies took years to develop the Clean Water Rule, notably including a scientific review that relied on over 1,200 peer-reviewed publications. The science confirms the significant relationship that tributaries, wetlands, and other waters have with the larger bodies of water into which they feed. The agencies also conducted a significant stakeholder engagement process that resulted in over 400 meetings and more than one million comments, approximately 87 percent of which supported the rule.

After years of uncertainty—created in large part by the conflicting Riverside, SWANCC, and Rapanos Supreme Court decisions—our constituents finally had a definition driven by science and not by the courts. In fact, as you note, President Trump, in his Executive Order on February 28, 2017, wrote, “[i]t is in the national interest to ensure that the Nation’s navigable waters are kept free of pollution, while at the same time promoting economic growth, minimizing regulatory uncertainty, and showing due regard to the roles of the Congress and the States under the Constitution.” For an administration to change the definition of what constitutes a water of the United States almost immediately upon entering office creates more, not less, regulatory uncertainty. We need stability and certainty for our constituents to be safe and our economy to grow.

Now more than ever, it is clear that too many communities have to worry about access to clean, safe water. Vigorously implementing the Clean Water Act helps protect clean drinking water for everyone. We therefore urge your agencies to immediately withdraw the misguided proposal to repeal the 2015 Clean Water Rule.

Respectfully submitted, 

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