The Clean Water Act has been one of the pillars of environmental protection since its enactment in 1972. Its directive to "restore the physical, chemical and biological integrity of our nation's waters" has given the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers a clear mandate to restore water quality, prevent the destruction of wetlands, and ensure that our country's water resources are safe for drinking, recreation, and wildlife.
The Clean Water Act has been under assault by industry forces for more than the past decade, and Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006 that limited agencies' oversight to “navigable waters” have left our waterways in greater danger than at any time since the 1960s – before this landmark law was put into place. These cases have resulted in vital protections being removed from 50 percent of the nation's streams and 20 million acres of wetlands, and studies show that the drinking water of 110 million Americans is at risk of contamination. Our government has little to no ability to prevent the pollution of these waters under current law.
LCV is committed to restoring the scope of the Clean Water Act to ensure that all of America’s waterways are protected. We have long supported legislation to accomplish this goal. Until such legislation passes, we are working with the Obama Administration to use the full scope of its existing regulatory authority to protect our nation’s water resources.
In an effort to mine coal in the cheapest way possible, mining companies in Appalachia have turned to mountaintop removal mining. These companies use massive amounts of dynamite to blow off the tops of mountains to unearth thin seams of coal. They then dump the leftover waste, full of toxic chemicals, into surrounding streams, destroying fish habitats and poisoning drinking water. To date, more than 500 mountains have been flattened and 2,000 miles of streams have been buried in waste. LCV urges the Administration and Congress to end mountaintop removal mining and ensure clean drinking water for Appalachian communities, primarily those areas of Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky.
Coal ash is a toxic byproduct produced from the burning of coal. The U.S. currently produces over 140 million tons of coal ash annually. Due to unsafe disposal, this waste can leach into ground water, threatening public health and the environment. Coal ash, which contains hexavalent chromium, lead, mercury, and other deadly heavy metals, is the second largest industrial waste stream in the U.S. and disproportionately affects low income communities. The EPA has the authority to regulate the disposal of coal ash, however, has not used that authority as of yet. In 2010, the EPA released a draft proposal for regulation of coal ash disposal; however, three years later the rule still has not been finalized. LCV works with our coalition partners to encourage the finalization of EPA’s proposed rule and defend against attacks in Congress to strip the EPA of its ability to regulate this harmful pollution.