August 28, 2017
The Environmental Protection Agency
Administrator Scott Pruitt
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20460
RE: COMMENTS ON DOCKET NUMBER EPA-HQ-OW- 2017-0203
Dear Administrator Pruitt,
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the proposed definition of Waters of the United States, repealing the Clean Water Rule. I strongly oppose repealing the Clean Water Rule.
The Clean Water Rule clarified longstanding Clean Water Act protections for millions of acres of wetlands and many headwater streams. These waters contribute to the drinking water supplies of one in three Americans and protect communities from flooding. Moreover, they provide essential fish and wildlife habitat that supports a robust outdoor recreation economy worth $887 billion. Consider the positive economic impact of two outdoor recreation activities that depend on clean water and abundant wetlands:
- Sport fishing accounts for 828,000 jobs, nearly $50 billion annually in retail sales, and an economic impact of about $115 billion every year.
- Expenditures by 1.5 million duck and goose hunters generate more than $3 billion for our economy.
The Clean Water Rule is firmly grounded in science. In developing the rule, EPA analyzed more than 1,200 peer-reviewed and other studies that assessed connections between small streams, non-tidal wetlands, and other upstream waters and larger downstream waters, including lakes, rivers, and estuaries. That review of the scientific literature reached several conclusions:
- Streams, regardless of their size or frequency of flow, that are connected to downstream waters affect water quality in those downstream waters.
- Wetlands and other open waters in riparian areas and floodplains are physically, chemically, and biologically integrated with rivers, serving to improve downstream water quality. These systems act as effective buffers to protect downstream waters from pollution.
- The incremental contributions of individual streams and wetlands can be cumulative across entire watersheds. Moreover, the effects of individual streams and wetlands on downstream waters should be evaluated within the context of other streams and wetlands in the watershed.
Moreover, to provide clarity for all, the Clean Water Rule clearly delineates types of waters that are not covered by the Clean Water Act, including many roadside ditches, livestock watering ponds, gullies and other erosional features, ornamental waters, and puddles. This reinforces a fundamental fact – the existing Clean Water Rule is limited and balanced.
Although I strongly oppose the pending proposal to revoke the Clean Water Rule, I understand this action is only the first part of the president’s executive order to rescind and replace the Rule. In his order, the president directed EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to consider the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s minority opinion from the Rapanos decision in drafting a replacement rule. Replacing the Clean Water Rule with regulations that follows Justice Scalia’s opinion would remove protections from practically all streams that do not flow continuously, as well as all wetlands that are not physically connected to larger bodies of water. This approach is not supported by the science and following it would not achieve the fundamental purpose of the Clean Water Act. If adopted as the basis of new regulations, it would decimate clean water protections across the country, leaving streams and wetlands that millions of Americans depend on for drinking water, swimming, fishing, hunting, paddling, and boating extraordinarily vulnerable to pollution or even disappearing altogether.
By repealing the Clean Water Rule, the administration is failing to deliver on the president’s promise that America will have “the cleanest water.” I oppose this repeal and respectfully ask that you halt this repeal and protect ALL of the waters that Congress intended when it passed the Clean Water Act. Thank you.