Take action now to stop the latest in a series of attacks that put polluters before people, threatening the protections that Americans rely upon to keep their rivers, lakes, and streams clean and safe.

Click HERE to urge your Senators to oppose the latest attack on our nation’s clean water protections: the Barrasso-Heller Amendment to the Fiscal 2012 Energy and Water Appropriations bill (H. R. 2354). 

From the stream that feeds your drinking water supply to the wetlands that provide habitat for nesting ducks, America’s water resources are under threat. The law that has long protected these types of water bodies from unregulated pollution, filling, and destruction—the Clean Water Act—is under attack by an amendment to be offered by Senators Barrasso (R-WY) and Heller (R-NV) on a spending bill the Senate will consider for the Army Corps of Engineers. The amendment would kill a good government initiative to clarify the types of waters the Clean Water Act protects. 

Clean water has become a casualty of unfounded efforts to blame the bad economy on our public health safeguards.

In "Too Dirty to Fail," Lisa Jackson, head of the Environmental Protection Agency argues that it’s time to stop the “assault on our environmental laws:”

“Using the economy as cover, and repeating unfounded claims that "regulations kill jobs," they have pushed through an unprecedented rollback of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and our nation's waste-disposal laws, all of which have successfully protected our families for decades... No credible economist links our current economic crisis — or any economic crisis — to tough clean-air and clean-water standards.”

The Barrasso/Heller Amendment seeks to block the draft agency guidance and any future rulemaking from the EPA and the Corps on the matter –indefinitely. Specifically, the Barrasso/Heller Amendment prohibits any funds from ever being used by the Army Corps of Engineers to “develop, adopt, implement, administer, or enforce a change or supplement to” various rules and guidance documents. This means that unless, and until, Congress changes the law, the Corps would be permanently prohibited from clarifying its rules defining what waters are protected by the CWA, or changing a pair of policy memoranda (memos that have had the real-world effect of denying CWA coverage to countless streams and wetlands) that the EPA and the Corps issued during the Bush administration. Opposing the EPA’s and the Corps’s efforts for further clarity is no different than opposing the Clean Water Act itself. And it risks years of further litigation and inconsistent decisions in the courts. Such ambiguity means that numerous waters will be destroyed or polluted.

By the Numbers: Quantifying the Threat

Streams, brooks, and headwater and irregularly-flowing creeks make up more than half the river miles in the continental United States, while wetlands filter polluted water, reduce the risk of flooding, and provide important wildlife habitat. The Obama administration’s actions will make clear that the Clean Water Act protects these types of water bodies.

  • 20 percent of an estimated 100 million acres of wetlands in the continental United States are considered isolated, making them vulnerable.
  • About 2 million miles of the stream miles outside of Alaska, about 60 percent, do not flow year-round.
  • Approximately 117 million people in the lower 48 states, “get some or all of their drinking water from public drinking water systems that rely at least in part on intermittent, ephemeral or headwater streams,” according to an EPA analysis of drinking water supplies that rely on small and non-perennial streams.
  • In a four-year period, more than 1,500 major pollution investigations of “[c]ompanies that have spilled oil, carcinogens and dangerous bacteria into lakes, rivers and other waters are not being prosecuted, according to Environmental Protection Agency regulators working on those cases,” as reported in the New York Times.
  • The “EPA estimates that more than 40 percent of the 37,000 permits with locational data discharge into either start reaches or intermittent/ephemeral streams, excluding Alaska. Approximately 28 percent of these discharges are from municipal sewage treatment systems, systems that treat domestic sewage as well as wastewater from commercial and industrial users.”