PennFuture opposes the Environmental Protection Agency’s delay of the implementation of the Clean Water Rule by two years, taking away critical oversight and diminishing the federal government’s protection of small waterways across the nation.
The Trump administration has actively been working to repeal the Clean Water Rule, which protects sensitive, smaller water critical to safeguarding water quality and wildlife throughout Pennsylvania.
One third of Americans get their drinking water from seasonal streams, creeks, and rivers protected by this rule, and we cannot afford to put this resource in danger. The Clean Water Rule clarifies federal authority over small waterways such as wetlands, headwaters and ponds, requiring Clean Water Act permits for any actions that could harm or pollute them. The Obama administration reported that 117 million Americans’ drinking water relies on those waterways.
“Small headwater streams and wetlands provide the greatest connections between land and water, trapping and storing nutrients, providing critical habitat, storing floodwaters, contributing to drinking water supplies, and filtering out pollutants,” said PennFuture Staff Attorney Abigail M. Jones. “The delay of the Clean Water Rule protection puts Pennsylvania’s clean water in jeopardy and turns a blind eye to polluters, increasing stormwater runoff, sediment erosion, agriculture runoff, and environmental damage from interstate energy development, like pipelines.”
These smaller streams are essential to protect drinking water; in Pennsylvania 58 percent of the streams that provide water for surface water intakes that supply public drinking water are intermittent, ephemeral, or headwater streams. But just as importantly, headwater streams have biological, chemical, and hydrologic connections to downstream waters. Scientific studies repeatedly demonstrate that the health of downstream lakes, rivers, and estuaries are directly tied to the health of their smaller headwater streams and wetlands.
Delaying the Clean Water Rule also will result in a loss of Clean Water Act protections to 55 percent of all stream miles in the Delaware River Watershed. These intermittent, ephemeral, and headwater streams in the Delaware River Watershed provide not only clean drinking water but are also spots for outdoor recreation and esthetic enjoyment of the natural environment. The delay of the Clean Water Rule puts all of this at risk.
“The Clean Water Rule actually went into effect in Pennsylvania in 2015 and was supported by over 1,000 peer-reviewed scientific publications and millions of people, including farmers, conservationists, and small-business,” Jones said. “It remains to be seen whether this ill-conceived attempt at rolling back clean water protections will withstand judicial scrutiny.”
PennFuture is leading the transition to a clean energy economy in Pennsylvania and beyond. We are protecting our air, water and land, and empowering citizens to build sustainable communities for future generations. For more information,visit www.pennfuture.org.