Restoring the Clean Water Act Can Help Restore the Gulf Coast

Oil and water don’t mix, a reality people and wildlife along Gulf Coast must confront every day. This week marks the one year anniversary of the Gulf oil disaster, an anniversary no one is celebrating.

Four million barrels of oil bled into the Gulf, killing 11 workers and endangering wildlife. (Via NWF)

Lives were lost in the oil spill disaster, and so was a way of life for many folks on the Gulf coast. What’s also being lost is an opportunity to protect all of our waters , both coastal and inland, from future catastrophes. The oil from the Gulf Coast disaster made its way from the ocean into inland waters and wetlands.  The Clean Water Act (CWA) protects rivers, lakes, streams, and wetlands from contamination by holding polluters accountable. Murky Supreme Court rulings and confusing 2003 and 2008 guidance from the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers make it unclear if the CWA applies to waters corrupted by oil spills. This legal uncertainty adds time and cost to oil spill prevention and cleanup, and weakens important clean water safeguards for all Americans.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which enforces the Clean Water Act, can reduce water pollution and hold energy companies accountable for oil spill cleanup by issuing new guidance that will clarify what waters are protected under the CWA.  This new guidance will restore the CWA by strengthening pollution protections, enforcement, and accountability.  It will also help protect clean drinking water for millions of Americans.

The Gulf disaster poured more than 4 million barrels of oil into coastal waters, and people and wildlife are still at risk. Restoring Clean Water Act protections could help restore wetlands and inland waters in the region. You can urge Congress to dedicate CWA fines collected from BP to restore the Gulf Coast. You can also urge the Obama Administration to issue new Clean Water Act guidance to protect our most valuable resource.