Michael Brune for the Huffington Post:
With a couple of decisions in 2001 and 2006, the Supreme Court managed to break the Clean Water Act by calling into question what Congress meant by "the waters of the United States." The existing law had been working just fine for almost 30 years. When the Clean Water Act was passed in 1972, about two-thirds of America's lakes, rivers, and coastal waters were unsafe for fishing and swimming. Before the Supreme Court waded in, that number had been cut in half.
That still left about a third of America's waters polluted, and yet the Clean Water Act could no longer be counted on to do its job. Overnight, millions of wetland acres and stream miles had lost protection. Good news for condo developers; bad news for wetlands.
Thus began a long and painstaking effort by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers to fix what the Supreme Court had broken. The result is a proposed EPA rule to clarify which wetlands and streams in the U.S. are covered under the Clean Water Act. This new rule would restore protection to most, though not all, of the waterways previously covered.
Frankly, clean water should be a no-brainer. Our wetlands, lakes, and streams aren't a luxury -- they're a necessity. We rely on them for flood protection and control, surface water filtration, and groundwater recharge. The health of our families, our environment, and our economy all depend on this critical resource. Today, 117 million Americans get their drinking water from public systems that rely on seasonal, rain-dependent, and headwater streams that are now at risk of pollution.
Believe it or not, though, some polluters and developers want to stop the restoration of these clean water protections. Some polluter pals in Congress even tried to tack on legislative amendments that would have ordered the Army Corps of Engineers not to recognize or enforce any change in federal jurisdiction over water pollution.
Sometimes you have to ask yourself: "What are they drinking?"
Let's get this thing fixed! Send a message to the EPA in support of its proposal to protect America's streams and wetlands from dangerous pollution!
Michael Brune is the Sierra Club's Executive Director.
Photo credit: EPA