We can’t turn turn back the clock on clean water

From the shores of Lake Erie to our iconic rivers like the Delaware, Susquehanna and Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers, Pennsylvania’s  streams, rivers, lakes and other waters are where we go to swim, fish, canoe, kayak or just enjoy the scenery. They also supply millions of Pennsylvanians with clean drinking water.

However, far too often we’re reminded of the bad old days, when polluters used so many of Pennsylvania’s and America’s waters as their own private sewers:

In January 2014, a 10,000-gallon chemical spill into West Virginia’s Elk River left 300,000 people without water. They couldn’t drink it, bathe in it, shower with it, cook with it, or even wash the dishes with it.

A month later, a Duke Energy pipeline collapsed, spreading more than 39,000 tons of coal ash along 70 miles of North Carolina’s Dan River.

Just six months later, in August 2014, a toxic algae bloom left 400,000 people in and around Toledo, Ohio, without drinking water. The algae contained cyanotoxin—a substance so potent that the military considered “weaponizing” it. Toledo faced problems again last year, when the algae bloom hit again.

We’ve worked hard to protect our waters and we’re doing all we can now to keep polluters from turning back the clock to the days when our rivers were so polluted that they caught on fire.

A growing threat for our waterways

Unfortunately, polluting industries have put our waters in even greater jeopardy. They’ve been pushing to weaken the U.S. Clean Water Act ever since it first passed nearly 50 years ago. After spending millions of dollars on lobbyists, lawyers, and glossy PR campaigns, they succeeded in carving out  loopholes in the law that left more than half of America’s streams, and 50,000 miles of Pennsylvania streams, open to pollution.

As a result of these loopholes, hundreds of polluters were able to escape penalties.

Fortunately, the EPA agreed to act, proposing a new rule that would close the loopholes so the agency could enforce the law,  stop the polluters, and protect our waterways.

"Legal warfare"

However, polluting industries lobbied furiously to stop us.

Our adversaries included big oil and gas companies, which have thousands of miles of pipelines running through wetlands. They threatened legal warfare against the plan to restore protections to these wetlands.

Coal companies, which have a history of dumping the wastes from their mining into mountain streams, and stood to benefit if the Clean Water Act failed to protect these streams.

Powerful developers who want to pave over wetlands without restrictions. A Michigan developer named Rapanos filed one of the court cases that created the loopholes.

Huge factory farms who generate millions of pounds of animal manure each year, some of which runs off into our water. These big agribusinesses and their congressional allies unleashed a smear campaign, designed to scare ordinary farmers into believing the EPA was out to grab their land and even “regulate puddles.” The smears were, of course, completely untrue.

Winning the biggest step forward for clean water in a decade

We quickly responded to support EPA’s efforts, to advocate in Congress for supporting this clean water initiative, recruit and mobilize a diverse and powerful coalition, and rally the grassroots to demand action.

  • Together with our allies, we gathered more than 800,000 comments and held more than half a million face-to-face conversations about the need to close loopholes in the Clean Water Act.

  • With the influential voices of more than 1,000 farmers, business owners and local elected officials behind us, our visibility events and media outreach efforts countered Big Ag’s smear campaign against the rule.

  • With the rule under threat, our national team held meetings with more than 50 congressional offices, urging them to champion the voice of the public and stand up for clean water.

And  our efforts paid off when President Obama finalized the Clean Water Rule in 2015, restoring federal protections to more than half the nation’s streams, which feed drinking water sources for one in three Americans.


EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy (sitting, right) and U.S. Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) Jo Ellen Darcy (sitting, left) signed the Clean Water for America rule on May 27, 2015, with Margie Alt, Environment America executive director (second from left).

But the fight for clean water continues

Sadly, now the Trump administration has come in and at the behest of the polluters has called for eliminating this historic clean water protection. "

Clean water is a right, not a privilege. So we’re ramping up our efforts again to defend our existing clean water safeguards to restore and protect our rivers and streams, and working to ensure clean water for all.


Clean Water Updates

News Release | Environment America

Analysis: Repealing the Clean Water Rule would be Devastating for the Delaware River Watershed

Philadelphia, PA – New analysis by Environment America shows 55% of all stream miles in the Delaware River Watershed will be left without federal protections by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt’s proposal to repeal the Clean Water Rule.

> Keep Reading
News Release | PennEnvironment

Repealing the Clean Water Rule turns the mission of the Environmental Protection Agency on its head

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Scott Pruitt proposed repealing the Clean Water Rule, which restored federal protections to half our nation’s streams and thousands of wetlands across the country.  Adam Garber, PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center Deputy Director, issued the following statement:

> Keep Reading
News Release | PennEnvironment

Citizens Rally to Expand Clean Energy in Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG– More than 100 residents across Pennsylvania traveled to the Capitol today with PennEnvironment to deliver a message to members of the General Assembly: it’s time to play a leadership role in pioneering climate and clean energy solutions.

> Keep Reading
News Release | PennEnvironment

Pittsburgh’s elected leaders sign full-page Post-Gazette ad in response to President Trump’s climate announcement.

PITTSBURGH (June 5, 2017) – Sending a clear message that President Trump’s disastrous climate policies don’t represent the opinion of Pittsburghers, the city’s senior elected officials, including Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, have signed a full-page advertisement that will appear in tomorrow’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette supporting action to curb the dangerous impacts of climate change.

> Keep Reading
News Release | PennEnvironment

Labor unions, parent groups, and health experts join Philly council members to announce citywide coalition to tackle environmental health threats in public schools

[Philadelphia] – As Philadelphia City Council heard testimony from concerned citizens at a public hearing about the city’s public schools, a powerful coalition of unusual suspects announced the kick-off of the “Philly Health Schools Initiative” to address significant building condition deficiencies and related environmental health threats found in public school buildings, including lead paint, asbestos, mold and other risks. 

> Keep Reading

Pages

View AllRSS Feed