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Clean Water Act Under Attack

One of our nation's most fundamental environmental laws is under attack, and we need to speak out to our federal delegation in a groundswell effort to counteract the lobbying efforts of resource extraction industries.

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CleanWaterActEven in Oregon’s prized Rogue River Basin, we have chronic water quality problems including high temperatures, bacteria and toxic algae. The Clean Water Act is our primary tool to address these problems in the hopes of leaving our water resources better than we found them.

Congress passed the landmark Clean Water Act in 1972 because they knew that dirty water harms people’s health, undermines strong economies and kills jobs. Sadly, we are witnessing an unprecedented attack on federal programs that protect public health and natural resources, including attacks on the Clean Water Act, one of our nation’s most important and fundamental laws. Not surprisingly, these efforts to weaken the Clean Water Act are being promoted by coal and chemical companies, timber interests and other industries that make more money when they pollute our public waters.

Here are the three biggest threats to the Clean Water Act currently making their way through Congress that we need your help to stop!

The Dirty Water Act
The Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act of 2011 (HR 2018), also known as the Dirty Water Act, would reverse many key provisions of the Clean Water Act by appointing the states, rather than the EPA, as the ultimate arbiter of water quality standards and the final authority on Clean Water Act permits. The result would be a patchwork of state water quality standards in which the EPA would be powerless to interject, even if they found a state-issued Clean Water Act permit to be questionable. The bill severely limits the long-standing federal responsibility for keeping water protection consistent across all states. On July 14, the U.S. House approved the bill, which was written in response to EPA actions around specific mountaintop removal coal mining and nutrient pollution problems. The bill now waits for action in the Senate.

Drinking Pesticides Act
The Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2011 (HR 872) would exempt pesticide applications in and around public waters from the protections and safeguards of the Clean Water Act.  Yet, treating pesticides as pollutants is common sense. Pesticides are designed to be toxic to living things, are responsible for significant harm to waterways, and have caused real harm to public health and ecosystems. Pesticides discharged into our waterways directly harm fish and amphibian life in particular. They also move up the food chain and contaminate drinking water. On March 31, 2011, the U.S. House approved the bill, and now waits for action in the Senate.

Dead Salmon, Dirty Streams and Dangerous Landslides Act
Sediment-laden stormwater from logging roads is the leading cause of water pollution from forestlands, and is known to suffocate salmon spawning habitat and degrade drinking water.   Much of this sediment is delivered directly to streams from pipes and ditches that the Clean Water Act requires be controlled through the same kind of permit system applicable to other industries.  A recent court ruling from the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has confirmed that some sediment sources from logging roads are subject to stormwater discharge requirements, even though these requirements have not generally been recognized in the past. In response, a few Senators, including Oregon’s Ron Wyden, introduced the Silviculture Regulatory Consistency Act (S 1369) in July to turn back the clock on clean water protection, and exempt erosion and sediment from logging roads from closer scrutiny under the Clean Water Act. Worse, this special interest exemption for logging road sediment also applies to a host of other industrial timber sources, undermining recovery efforts for Pacific salmon.

Take Action: Help Defend the Clean Water Act