By Madeleine Foote, League of Conservation Voters
On May 17, LCV Legislative Representative Madeleine Foote testified at OMB in strong opposition of repealing the Clean Water Rule, a widely supported protection that was implemented by the Obama administration to help protect the drinking water of 1 in 3 people in this country. Check out Madeleine’s testimony below:
Testimony to OMB on Clean Water Rule Repeal
Definition of “Waters of the United States” – Recodification of Preexisting Rules
My name is Madeleine Foote and I’m representing the League of Conservation Voters and our over one million members.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today on the Trump administration’s forthcoming proposal to rescind the Clean Water Rule, which defines which water bodies are protected under the Clean Water Act. The Clean Water Rule is critical to helping protect the drinking water of 1 in 3 people in this country by restoring critical pollution protections to small streams and wetlands.
Its repeal will put our clean water and public health in jeopardy, not to mention continue the confusing and inefficient processes involved in determining whether or not a waterbody is covered by the Clean Water Act—a regulatory hassle for businesses that have asked for clarity for years. And speaking of businesses, many of them rely on the waterways that the Clean Water Rule would protect, and they weighed in with strong support for it throughout the process of drafting and finalizing the rule as well as during congressional discussions and votes on it.
This rule was a decade in the making, and after the two Supreme Court decisions that threw the Clean Water Act’s jurisdiction into confusion, stakeholders across the board asked for the agencies (the EPA and the Army Corps) to provide clarity- including environmental and conservation groups, like those here today, sportsmen, state and local governments, the regulated community like the National Association of Manufacturers, farmers and agricultural associations like the American Farm Bureau and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, many other businesses that are regulated or impacted by the decisions, and of course, many others who rely on clean water for their families and communities to drink, swim, and play in.
The Clean Water Rule was the product of extensive outreach and engagement. The EPA and the Army Corps held over 400 meetings with stakeholders across the country to get feedback on the proposed rule and then numerous other meetings with stakeholders after the final rule was released to ensure those impacted would understand what the final rule did and didn’t do. The agencies gave ample time for all interested parties to give their input, extending the comment period to an impressive 180 days, during which over 1 million public comments were submitted. Of those comments, approximately 87 percent of them were in support of the rule.
From the way some members of this administration and the rule’s opponents discuss the Clean Water Rule, you would think it is the most hated, unpopular regulation ever put forward by the federal government, but our extensive research and polling on this rule and the environment broadly refutes those claims. In every poll conducted on environmental issues, concern about water and water pollution is the top issue on people’s minds—maybe this is because water is such an invaluable component of our everyday life. Fundamentally, we need it to live, but we also need it to live—to make our coffee and beer, to grow our food, to run our businesses, to create energy, to recreate in. It is no wonder that people overwhelmingly care about clean water.
And they overwhelmingly support the Clean Water Rule. In polling done for LCV around the rule’s release, over 80 percent of respondents were in favor of the rule and this support cut across party lines including large majorities of Democrats, independents, and Republicans. Additionally, a majority of people think the federal government should be doing more, not less, to protect our water. This support is echoed in poll after poll, including those surveying businesses and sportsmen. How often do you find these margins of support for something? Basically never. Rescinding this rule would be completely out of step and out of touch with the desires of the majorities of Americans, regardless of party.
But the administration doesn’t need to simply look at polls to see that repealing the rule is out of step with the desires of Americans—they can look at their own outreach and docket surrounding the executive order ordering every agency to identify regulations to be repealed, modified, or replaced. During the EPA’s Office of Water listening session on May 2, the vast majority of callers voiced their opposition to rolling back any EPA regulations that protect clean water. They remember when our rivers were on fire, when pollution was so bad that the majority of waterbodies in this country were dying, devoid of life. And they refuse to go back to that. In addition, the agency received over 55,000 written comments into the docket in response to the E.O., the overwhelming majority of which oppose rolling back environmental protections. Regulations to protect water from industry pollution are not “burdensome,” pointless methods to destroy businesses and tank our economy—they are safeguards to ensure that this vital resource is protected for us all. The American public knows we don’t have to choose between a safe environment and a strong economy, and they have made their opinion very clear—the administration would do best to listen.
Again, the League of Conservation Voters, on behalf of our over one million members, urges the administration to rethink their proposal to rescind the Clean Water Rule. Instead, we urge you to make it stronger and pursue additional policies that ensure that every person in this country has clean, safe drinking water.