Midwest Environmental Advocates is a nonprofit environmental law center that works for healthy water, air, land and government for this generation and the next. We believe that every citizen has the potential to make a difference.

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Thank you, EPA, for finalizing improved clean water rules

May 28, 2015

We applaud yesterday’s news that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finalized the clean water rules that clarify what is and is not protected under the Clean Water Act. U.S. Supreme Court rulings in 2000 and 2006 left legal and regulatory questions unanswered, which left waters unprotected and created a cumbersome regulatory process.

After nearly a year of community outreach, over 400 meetings with stakeholders, assessments of over 1,200 peer-reviewed studies and an extensive public comment period, the EPA’s final rules will help to clarify how the Clean Water Act applies to the streams and wetlands that are an essential part of the system of water we drink and depend on for a vibrant and healthy economy.

This is critical to protect our precious water resources which provide value to citizens, businesses, and our environmental commons. Regulated industries will also benefit from the clarity this rule provides, which will reduce uncertainty and streamline the regulatory process.

Despite strong opposition by industrial agriculture lobby groups, the clean water rules exempt agriculture. We are disappointed that the rules don’t go far enough to address the real and immediate issues with agricultural runoff: the source of pollution from Wisconsin’s hypoxia problem in Green Bay down to the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. However, we applaud progress and these rules will make it easier to protect water downstream from many sources of pollution.

 

The full document of clean water rules defining the “Waters of the United States” is available online. The New York Times had a good write up of the news as well as partisan and corporate opposition. Wisconsin's Political Environment blog also mentioned the news and how it relates to local water pollution problems.