Environmental Groups, Legal Experts, and Clean Water Advocates Respond to Biden Administration’s Revised Definition of “Waters of the United States”

Contact: Emily Samsel, esamsel@lcv.org, 828-713-9647

Washington, D.C. – Today, the Biden Administration has finalized the Revised Definition of the “Waters of the United States” and repealed – once and for all – former President Donald Trump’s catastrophic rollback of critical clean water protections, which jeopardized the waterways that our families and communities depend on. In response, environmental groups, legal experts, and clean water advocates released the following statements:

“While a few polluters will benefit from gutting our nation’s clean water rules, most businesses depend on clean water. Clean water protections are especially important for many local economies that depend on tourism to nearby lakes, rivers, and beaches and for certain industries like beverage manufacturing, shellfish, outdoor recreation, farming, and others. The Biden-Harris Administration’s reversal of the Dirty Water rule is a vital step forward for science-backed protections of the “Waters of the US” and ensuring thriving American businesses and communities,” said David Levine, President and Co-founder at American Sustainable Business Network.

“Clean water is essential for all life. But our water and rivers are at risk as never before, from pollution, loss of habitat, climate change, and other threats. Nothing short of our health and safety are at stake. We applaud the Biden Administration for reinstating commonsense safeguards for the waterways that provide vital benefits for drinking water and wildlife. This new rule is based on rigorous science and goes a long way towards ensuring clean water for our rivers and the communities that depend on them,” said Tom Kiernan, President and CEO, American Rivers.

“We applaud the EPA for taking this critical step toward securing safeguards for all of our nation’s water bodies,” said Jennifer Peters, National Water Programs Director at Clean Water Action. “The Navigable Waters Protection Rule decimated water quality protections for most wetlands and streams, including those that feed vital drinking water sources.”

“The agencies put a lot of time, effort, and thought into this rule,” said Stuart Gillespie, Senior Attorney with Earthjustice.  “They reviewed hundreds of scientific articles, worked through thousands of public comments, and developed a framework for protecting our nation’s water from reckless development and industrial pollution. The rule is not perfect, but it’s an important step towards restoring protections to a vast network of waterways that play a key role in supporting public health, resilient ecosystems, and economic growth.”

“The EPA’s new rule makes progress by restoring federal protections to at least some waterways. But securing the promise of the Clean Water Act requires us to protect all our streams and remaining wetlands from polluters. We will not rest until all of America’s waterways get the protection they deserve,” said John Rumpler, Senior Clean Water Director for Environment America.

“We welcome the Biden administration’s new rule to protect our nation’s clean water and define the scope of the Clean Water Act. Here in the Midwest, we depend on wetlands to filter and recharge our drinking water sources, to contain stormwater and reduce risks of flooding, and to provide critical habitat for wildlife. Strong federal wetlands protections are needed to stop the continued unnecessary loss of wetlands from development, and to keep our state and local wetlands programs honest,” said Scott Strand, Senior Attorney at the Environmental Law & Policy Center.

“With today’s announcement, the Biden administration has moved closer to fulfilling the President’s campaign promise to ensure everyone has access to clean, safe water,” said Madeleine Foote, Deputy Legislative Director for the League of Conservation Voters. “We greatly appreciate the administration ridding us of Trump’s dangerous Dirty Water Rule once and for all and thank the EPA and the Army Corps for engaging in a transparent and inclusive rulemaking process. This is a good step toward advancing environmental justice for Black, Brown, Indigenous, and low-income communities that have historically borne the brunt of water pollution.”

“Today we can all celebrate cleaner water for our national parks and communities. After working with our partners and hearing from park supporters across the country, these more clearly defined protections will help keep our waters safer and cleaner for drinking, swimming, boating, fishing and so much more. Our work is not done with two-thirds of national park waters impaired and many communities today still living with unsafe drinking water. The health of our parks is directly linked to the health of the waters that surround and flow through them. And protecting our waterways upstream from pollution will improve the water quality downstream for the millions of people that visit our parks and the diverse, endangered wildlife that call our parks home. From the impacts of climate change to drinking water crises and algal blooms, cleaner water works in tandem with restoration investments already underway at our parks and promotes businesses, tourism and recreational opportunities across the country. Today is a win for all of us,” said Chad Lord, Senior Director of Environmental Policy and Climate Change for the National Parks Conservation Association.

“It’s a smart move to take this off the books. Eliminating the anti-science Trump ‘Dirty Water Rule’ and codifying longstanding practices is a sensible, good-government action. And this comes at a time when we’re seeing unprecedented attacks on federal clean water protections by polluters and their allies. While the nation still has significant work to do to fully protect important waters, it’s encouraging to see the country taking a step in the right direction to protect the waters we need for everyone’s health and the environment,” said Jon Devine, Director of Federal Water Policy for Natural Resources Defence Council.

“Recent rollbacks of clean water protections left countless communities and ecosystems in danger,” said Jim Murphy, director of legal advocacy for the National Wildlife Federation. “While there is still much work to be done to ensure all Americans have clean water, the EPA’s new rule will help protect the streams, wetlands, rivers, and lakes people and wildlife depend upon from pollution and other threats. We thank EPA administrators for their efforts to safeguard the nation’s waters.”

“Today’s rule is an important step toward restoring protections for waters critical to our communities and our health. Big polluters, like the oil and gas industry, and their pro-polluter conspirators in Congress have been too successful at trying to chip away and gut bedrock environmental and public health protections in the name of profit for the wealthy few. Enough is enough. Today’s rule pumps the brakes on their ability to add to the setbacks and damage already done by the Trump Administration’s move to severely restrict what waters are covered by the Clean Water Act. We still have so far to go, but today’s rule is a win for the public,” said Beth Roach, Clean Water Director, Sierra Club.

“Today, the Biden administration restored needed clean water protections so that our nation’s waters are safe for fishing, swimming, and as sources of drinking water,” said Kelly Moser, senior attorney and leader of the Southern Environmental Law Center’s Clean Water Defense Initiative. “The lakes, streams, and wetlands that this rule protects help to ensure the health of our ecosystems and communities.”

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