PennFuture Blog

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PennFuture Submits Comments Opposing the Dirty Water Rule, Engages More Than 1,400 Citizens to Do the Same

On Monday, April 15, PennFuture submitted public comments opposing the Trump Administration’s proposed revised definition of “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act. The proposed definition – the Dirty Water Rule as we like to call it – would be the single biggest rollback of Clean Water Act protections since its creation in 1972.

PennFuture’s comments opposing the Dirty Water Rule can be found here.

In addition, PennFuture engaged more than 1,400 people, each of whom submitted comments opposing the proposed gutting of the Clean Water Act. Nationally, more than 300,000 people submitted comments.

Since taking office in 2017, President Trump has made the attack on the 2015 Clean Water Rule a priority for his administration. The 2015 Clean Water Rule clarified the Clean Water Act’s jurisdiction and reduced uncertainty, as well as protected critical waters throughout Pennsylvania and across America.

PennFuture strongly supported the promulgation of the Clean Water Rule because it was supported by the legislative history of the Clean Water Act, it would protect drinking water supplies used by millions of Pennsylvanians, and it would protect sensitive and critical headwaters and wetlands, which, in turn, protect the water quality for thousands of stream miles in the Commonwealth. The Clean Water Rule also relied on a “significant nexus” test to determine jurisdiction of certain waters. The significant nexus test recognized the importance of biological, chemical, and physical influence of waters as a basis of Clean Water Act protections.

In contrast, the proposed Dirty Water Rule is not based on science at all but is a capitulation to big industry interests, making it easier for them to pollute our nation’s waters. The Dirty Water Rule is based on an extremely limited dictionary definition of the term “water,” which was taken to mean only relatively permanent standing or flowing waters. Additionally, the term “adjacent wetlands” was restricted to mean only those wetlands that physically touch or have a direct hydrological surface connection to other “waters of the United States.”

Consequently, the proposed Dirty Water Rule would eliminate protections for some of our most critical waters, especially wetlands and ephemeral (rain dependent) streams. These waters provide numerous benefits for local wildlife and ecology and provide the clean water source for many of our drinking water systems. For this and the other reasons set forth in our comments, PennFuture strongly opposed the Dirty Water Rule as a dire threat to the significant progress we have made under the Clean Water Act toward restoring and conserving our nation’s waters.

While this was the final step in the “repeal and replace” of the 2015 Clean Water Rule’s definition of “waters of the United States” (see here for PennFuture’s comments on the repeal stage), the proposed Dirty Water Rule must be finalized by the federal agencies after reviewing and responding to all the comments. PennFuture anticipates a flurry of litigation to follow finalization of the Dirty Water Rule, and we will keep you posted about what happens next.

If you like our efforts supporting strong clean water protections in Pennsylvania, please consider DONATING to PennFuture to support our work!

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