“The first river you paddle runs through the rest of your life. It bubbles up in pools and eddies to remind you who you are.” -Lynn Noel 

Don’t turn back the clock

From the Great Lakes to the Colorado River, from Puget Sound to the Chesapeake Bay, America’s rivers, streams, lakes and other waters are where we go to swim, fish, canoe, kayak or just enjoy the scenery. They supply us with clean drinking water.

However, far too often we’re reminded of the bad old days, when polluters used many of 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 Ohio’s Cuyahoga River was so polluted that it caught on fire. 

Even greater jeopardy

Unfortunately, polluting industries have put our waters in even greater jeopardy. They’ve been pushing to weaken the Clean Water Act ever since it first passed more than 40 years ago. After spending millions of dollars on lobbyists and lawyers, they carved loopholes in the law that left more than half of America’s streams open to pollution.

The loopholes put nearly 2 million miles of our streams at risk, threatening the drinking water of 117 million Americans. They also put at risk 20 million acres of wetlands, an area the size of South Carolina and home to millions of birds and fish. 

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

For example, as Pro Publica reported, “in 2007, when an oil company discharged thousands of gallons of crude oil into Edwards Creek in Titus County, Tex., the EPA did not issue a fine, pursue legal action or even require cleanup.

“Similarly, after a farming operation dumped manure into tributaries that fed Lake Blackshear in Georgia, the EPA did not seek to hold the polluting company responsible—despite the fact that tests showed unsafe levels of bacteria and viruses in the lake, which was regularly used for waterskiing and other recreation. 

In a single 18-month period, Clean Water Act loopholes undermined 500 EPA water pollution cases.

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

"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 

You gave us the resources to advocate in Congress, 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. 
In 2015, our efforts paid off when President Obama finalized the Clean Water Rule, 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). 

The fight for clean water continues

In October 2015, a federal appeals court blocked full enforcement of the Clean Water Act in all 50 statesputting on hold the new protections we just won for thousands of waterways and wetlands across the country. 

We’ve put together a legal strategy to defend the Clean Water Rule, and given its strong legal and scientific basis, the courts should ultimately reject all efforts to weaken it. 

As polluters and their allies continue trying to derail this progress, your continued support helps keep the debate focused on what this issue is really about: Clean water for our families.

Clean Water Updates

News Release | Environment Texas

Scott Pruitt is the Wrong Choice for EPA

According to press reports, President-elect Trump has chosen Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the EPA.  Environment Texas Director, Luke Metzger, issued the following statement in response:

“We need an Environmental Protection Agency Administrator who protects our environmental laws, is guided by science when crafting and implementing policy, puts public health ahead of dirty energy special interests, and has the qualifications necessary to safeguard the American public from climate change. President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for Environmental Protection Agency Administrator, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt meets none of those criteria.

Scott Pruitt is a main party to several lawsuits against the very agency he would be in charge of.  He denies the science of climate change and he has numerous close ties to polluters.  Americans need an EPA administrator who will fight to protect the air we breathe, the water we drink and the planet we love. Scott Pruitt fails on all these accounts.”

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News Release | Environment Texas

Senate Approves Aid for Communities Facing Lead-Contaminated Drinking Water

AUSTIN – This afternoon, the U.S. Senate voted to authorize funding to address drinking water contaminated with lead in Flint and other communities across the country.  The safe drinking water funding provisions were included in S. 2848, a bill to reauthorize the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA).  Environment Texas Director Luke Metzger issued this statement:  

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News Release | Environment Texas

Texas elected officials, industry leaders, and environmental organizations encourage Congress to invest in water infrastructure

AUSTIN –A group of bipartisan state legislators, business leaders and conservation and civic organizations wrote the Texas congressional delegation today urging them to invest in water infrastructure and address the growing problems with lead contaminated water.

The Senate version of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) bill includes $4.8 billion in funding to address clean drinking water, removal of lead pipes and stormwater management, including a $220 million aid package to address the Flint, Michigan crisis, but the House version does not. The group is calling on Congress to make sure this additional $4.8 billion is included in the final package of the bill.

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News Release | Environment Texas Research and Policy Center

Tyson among top water polluters in Texas

HOUSTON – Tyson Foods, one of the world’s largest meat and poultry producers, generates the most animal manure of major companies surveyed nationwide, a new report said today. The Environment Texas Research & Policy Center study documented pollution from Tyson and four other major agriculture conglomerates, responsible for 44 percent of the pork, chicken, and beef produced in the U.S.

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Report | Environment Texas Research and Policy Center

Corporate Agribusiness and the Fouling of America’s Waterways

Pollution from agribusiness is responsible for some of America’s most intractable water quality problems – including the “dead zones” in the Chesapeake Bay, the Gulf of Mexico and Lake Erie, and the pollution of countless streams and lakes with nutrients, bacteria, sediment and pesticides. Today’s agribusiness practices – from the  concentration of thousands of animals and their waste in small feedlots to the massive planting of chemical-intensive crops such as corn – make water pollution from agribusiness both much more likely and much more dangerous.

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