On March 29, following a House vote earlier this month, the Senate voted to overturn the newly finalized Clean Water Restoration Rule using the Congressional Review Act (CRA), which is a blunt legislative tool that allows Congress to invalidate a recently-finalized agency rule, skipping normal consideration and procedure, and prevent any future administration from issuing a rule that is “substantially the same.”
This Clean Water Restoration Rule is a commonsense measure and this attack is just the latest attempt by polluters and their allies in Congress to undermine the Clean Water Act. The Resolution will now go to President Biden, who has threatened to veto the measure.
See below for responses to the vote from Clean Water for All members and partners:
Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments Executive Director Katie Huffling issued the following statement: “Clean water is one of the greatest public health advances of the 20th century that unfortunately is not equitably accessed by all. Communities rely on federal protections of our rivers, lakes, and drinking water sources and rollbacks of protections will only further health inequities. The Senate resolution of the CRA on WOTUS is another attempt to place profits over health under the guise of economic expansion. Impeding the ability of federal agencies to safeguard waterways that our families, communities, and economies depend on is an assault on our public health rights.”
Tom Kiernan, President and CEO of American Rivers, made the following statement: “Too many communities across our country are threatened with polluted water. Too many species of fish, birds, and wildlife are at the brink of extinction because of habitat destruction. Now is not the time to roll back safeguards for clean water and rivers, or create more loopholes for polluters. The Biden administration’s rule provides a science-based approach that recognizes the common sense fact that pollution upstream can have downstream impacts. Overturning the rule would open streams and wetlands to pollution and destruction. It would threaten the water supplies for millions of Americans and cause far-reaching harm to the rivers on which all life depends. The Waters of the U.S. CRA aims to weaken bedrock protections under the Clean Water Act, our nation’s primary law governing federal water pollution. We now call on President Biden to veto the Waters of the U.S. CRA and uphold the administration’s Clean Water Restoration Rule.”
“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,” said Colton Fagundes, Director of Clean Water and Agriculture Policy at American Sustainable Business Network. “ASBN and our business members are disappointed by the Senate’s decision to put the profits of large polluting industrial interests ahead of science-based standards under the Clean Water Act and the health of local economies and communities.”
Rachel Conn, Amigos Bravos Deputy Director made the following statement: “In this dirty water move the US Senate weakened the clean water protections that New Mexicans depend upon to provide clean water for drinking, irrigating, and recreation. This is a clear case of the interests of corporate polluters overriding common sense safeguards that protect clean water. We thank our New Mexico Senators for standing up for clean water and we now urge President Biden to follow through with his promise to veto this dangerous resolution and protect clean water for all Americans.”
In response to today’s vote, Clean Water Action’s National Water Programs Director Jennifer Peters released the following statement: “We are deeply disappointed that a majority of U.S. Senators voted in favor of profits for polluters over commonsense Clean Water Act protections for everyone. This reckless attack puts vital streams and wetlands at risk and threatens the drinking water sources for millions of people across the country. Ensuring clean water for all communities should always take precedent over the interests of corporate polluters. We urge President Biden to follow through on his promise to veto this dangerous, pro-polluter resolution.”
Earthjustice Senior Legislative Counsel Julián González issued the following statement: “The Clean Water Restoration Rule is grounded in the scientific consensus of how waters and wetlands are hydrologically connected and incredibly important to protect. This is a welcome step forward from the Trump administration’s pro-polluter dirty water. Unfortunately, instead of relying on the science, Republicans — and some Democrats — are choosing to ally themselves with dirty industries whose mission is to eliminate any and all meaningful protections for our waters. The Senators who voted to remove these protections shamefully put corporate profits over our right to clean drinking water, healthy water-reliant economies, and sustainable water supply. Protections for clean water are constantly under attack from polluting industries, and this will not be the last Republican attempt to significantly weaken the Clean Water Act during this Congress. We urge Members of Congress who supported this resolution to reflect on why they are tossing aside concerns of people from all walks of life who value our waters in order to support those who would decimate the Clean Water Act if they had their way. Finally, we applaud President Biden for indicating he will reject this effort and veto this resolution when it reaches his desk.”
John Rumpler, senior clean water director for Environment America, said: “Americans cherish clean water. From a favorite stream for fishing to the water flowing from our kitchen sinks, we all depend on clean water to survive and thrive. Yet 53 senators just voted to reject Clean Water Act protections for many of America’s remaining wetlands, and to streams that millions of Americans rely on for drinking and recreation. This dirty water resolution comes even as a new scientific study shows the importance of wetlands in protecting our rivers, lakes and bays from pollution. Small streams help provide drinking water to millions of Americans. Wetlands filter out pollutants, provide vital wildlife habitat and protect our communities from flooding in a climate-changed world. Especially in the wake of the toxic train disaster in East Palestine, Ohio, senators should be doing everything they can to protect clean water. All of America’s waterways deserve the full protection of our government.”
Statement by Scott Strand, Senior Attorney, Environmental Law & Policy Center: “We are disappointed that the Senate passed a misguided resolution of disapproval that, if it became law, would erase the Biden administration’s new Clean Water Restoration Rule from the books and bar a similar rule in the future. This new rule protects important wetlands that are vital to clean water in the Great Lakes and across the region. A vote for this resolution was a vote for dirtier water. We are pleased President Biden has committed to stand up for clean water and the Clean Water act and veto this resolution.”
GreenLatinos Director of Strategic Initiatives, Mariana Del Valle Prieto Cervantes, issued the following statement: “With this vote, all present Republicans and some Democrats have aligned with corporate interests and ignored the reality that if we truly value water as a human right, then our waters need to be better protected so that our communities have access to clean, healthy, reliable and affordable water. Continuing to create confusion around what the Clean Water Act’s purpose is and who is “burdened by regulations,” goes against recent polls, which states that 71 percent of Latine people say that pollution in rivers, lakes and streams is a very big or moderately big issue in their communities. This statistic further exemplifies how decision makers need to prioritize holding polluters accountable. We stand with our frontline communities and communities of color who are already seeing firsthand the consequences of not valuing the life that our waters bring and will continue to advocate for the interconnectedness of life. In addition, we urge the Members of Congress that supported this dangerous resolution to take a step back and reflect on their decision and the impacts on the health of our water and the people who would be most impacted. These decisions have real world impacts and should not be taken lightly. We urge President Biden to follow through and reject this effort by vetoing this WOTUS Congressional Review Act joint resolution.” A Spanish language version of this statement can be found here.
The League of Conservation Voters issued the following statement from Deputy Legislative Director Madeleine Foote: “Today’s vote puts big polluter profits ahead of the health of our families and communities. This dangerous legislation would severely weaken the Clean Water Act by revoking important protections for critical waters and allowing unregulated pollution and destruction of everything from small streams to rivers to wetlands. Since the Act’s passage over 50 years ago, polluters and their allies in Congress have tried to roll back the important safeguards it provides, but polling continues to show that voters want Congress to do more, not less, to protect the waters our families, communities, and economy depend on. We look forward to President Biden’s veto of this harmful legislation and urge Congress to work to ensure that everyone, no matter their race, zip code, or income, has access to clean, safe water.”
Jon Devine, Director of Federal Water Policy at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), made the following statement: “Today’s vote was reckless and had no place on the Senate’s docket. This harmful legislation seeks to gut commonsense clean water protections for streams and wetlands, putting polluters before people. This attack on the Clean Water Act was joined by all Republicans present and some Democrats. From either party, it’s indefensible. Ensuring everyone in America — regardless of their race, income, or location — has access to safe, clean water should always take priority over the profits of corporate polluters. We urge President Biden to follow through with his threat to veto this dangerous resolution and protect the waters we all depend on.”
“For half a century, the Clean Water Act has protected clean drinking water, human health, and wildlife habitat,” said Jim Murphy, director of legal advocacy for the National Wildlife Federation. “The resolution threatens to dangerously undermine this legacy and essential clean water protections — and demands a veto from President Biden. It would invalidate a commonsense rule that is less protective than policies pushed forward by the Reagan administration and almost identical to policies under George W. Bush.” A Spanish language version of this statement can be found here.
In response, Sierra Club Executive Director Ben Jealous issued the following statement: “Restoring critical protections for waters across the country should be a simple and easily supported effort. Yet a majority of Senators elected to represent the American people have chosen to side with corporate polluters and play politics with one of our most critical natural resources. This is inexcusable. Access to clean, safe water is a human right and should never be determined by where someone lives, how much money they make, or the color of their skin. The Sierra Club has and will continue to work with our allies to protect our waters, and we call President Biden to swiftly veto the WOTUS Congressional Review Act resolution.”