Several months ago, the Trump administration began its efforts to strip away long-standing clean water protections by proposing the suspension of standards under the Clean Water Act. The proposed 2-year suspension of the protections provided by the 2015 Clean Water Rule was the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ first step in a coordinated series of attacks. Conservation groups argued before the U.S. District Court in Charleston that the agencies illegally refused to explain their rationale for the suspension and denied meaningful public comment. The court agreed, adamantly rejecting the agencies’ approach.
The ruling ends the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ suspension of clean water protections under the Clean Water Act and puts the Clean Water Rule back in effect for more than half of the country. This ruling does not apply to 24 states where other legal challenges are pending, including Georgia. This win is important on its own, and perhaps even more so in preparation for impending efforts to permanently repeal the Clean Water Rule.
The Trump administration has already prepared a proposed rule that would degrade our rivers and streams that is expected to be released for public comment within the next two months. Under this proposal, which is backed by industrial polluters:
- Small streams that flow into Georgia’s rivers, drinking water reservoirs and eventually our coastal estuaries and waters would be made vulnerable to industrial pollution, putting drinking water for 53 percent of Georgia’s population at risk.
- Wetlands that absorb flood waters, improve water quality, support wildlife, and buffer our communities from hurricanes and storms would be at risk of fill and more pollution.
- Our drinking water supplies from the Upper Chattahoochee River, our favorite swimming holes along the Flint River, our North Georgia trout fishing streams, and so many other waters would be in jeopardy.
We can’t afford to let the Altamaha, St. Marys, Savannah, and Georgia’s other rivers become polluted. We have worked too hard to keep these waters clean, and we are prepared .
But it is not enough to strike the administration in court. Communities across the South are fighting against big polluters and bad politics to make sure that toxic pollution stays out of our waters and basic, long-lasting protections remain in place. Georgians must engage in concerted outreach efforts to enlighten our members and the public at large that we can’t take our cherished waters for granted.
Do you want to get involved in the defense of the US Clean Water Act? Contact Bill Sapp at SELC.