As Americans Head for Lakes and Beaches, Congress Attacks Clean Water Act Protections

Keep America's waters clean for our children's future (Photo by Graham Crumb/Flickr)
As summer begins, I wonder if Americans realize how much they owe to the 1972 Clean Water Act for the clean water and healthy waterbodies they cherish. This year is the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, which is a great time to reflect on the clean water successes of this pivotal legislation: healthier water to drink; cleaner streams, rivers and lakes in which to swim, fish and play; and dramatically lower rates of natural wetland loss.

But do Americans realize that too many of their own members of Congress are actively working in Washington, D.C., to undermine these successes?

Congressional attacks on the Clean Water Act have been relentless over the last year.

Clean Water Act Under Threat

The Clean Water Act is under attack yet again this week in the form of ill-conceived legislation introduced by Representative John Mica (R-FL) and Representative Nick Rahall (D-WV), HR 4965. The bill is scheduled for markup by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Thursday, June 7th. If enacted, the Mica-Rahall bill would prohibit the Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency from finalizing and implementing the much-needed Clean Water Act guidance that would protect the nation’s prized water resources. By blocking agency action, the Mica-Rahall bill would threaten water quality, jeopardize drinking water for 117 million Americans, and accelerate wetland losses that damage hunting, fishing and wildlife watching–pursuits that annually contribute $122 billion in direct expenditures to our nation’s economy.

Summertime and the Livin’ Ain’t Easy

Sandhill crane chicks forage with their parent in a Florida pond
Two sandhill crane chicks just days old forage in a Florida pond with their parent. (Photo by Jim Urbach.)
HR 4965 undermines the future of clean water, leaving streams, rivers and wetlands vulnerable by blocking Clean Water Act guidance and anticipated rulemaking—now and indefinitely.  Furthermore, the bill could nullify the previous guidance issued in 2008 under the Bush administration, leaving the public and federal agencies with no roadmap for implementing the Clean Water Act and protecting America’s waters. This bill is another effort on the part of opponents of clean water to roll back longstanding and successful Clean Water Act protections.

Currently, millions of acres of wetlands and miles of streams that recharge aquifers help retain floodwaters, provide important fish and wildlife habitat, and provide clean water for iconic systems like the Chesapeake Bay and Great Lakes are at risk. As these waters are polluted and diminished, their tremendous ecological, economic and public health benefits are lost as well.

Clean water is a public right and fundamental in protecting our livelihoods, wildlife, communities and economy and should never be the subject of partisan wrangling. Every member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee should stand up this week and oppose the Mica-Rahall bill and protect our nation’s water.

Take Action

If you care about clean water and would like future generations to have fishable, swimmable and drinkable waters, take action and call, e-mail, tweet, or Facebook the members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and urge them to VOTE NO ON THE MICA-RAHALL BILL (HR 4965).