'Waters of the U.S.' rule to help communities, municipalities receive safe drinking water

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, the new proposed Clean Water Protection Rule will help ensure Americans have safe drinking water by closing a critical gap in the nation's pollution laws.

WASHINGTON, DC, Nov. 17, 2014 -- According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the new proposed Clean Water Protection Rule (CWPR), or 'Waters of the U.S.' rule, will help ensure that Americans have safe drinking water by closing a critical gap in the nation's pollution laws. The rule, based on extensive scientific studies, was formally proposed in April 2014, and the public comment period closed on Friday, Nov. 14.

In more than 60 pages of formal comments submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Friday, NRDC noted that by clarifying which waterbodies are covered by the Clean Water Act (CWA), CWPR will significantly increase protection for streams, ponds and wetlands that help filter pollution, curb flooding, provide valuable fishing and swimming opportunities, and connect to drinking water for more than 100 million Americans.

In its comments, NRDC said that Congress intended the law to protect all critical waters and that the proposal is faithful to that intent. The agencies developed the rule to restore protections to intermittent streams and wetlands that can impact downstream lakes and rivers. CWPR as published, however, would protect fewer waters than had been covered since the days of the Reagan administration, and NRDC said certain parts of the proposal should be strengthened to comply with the CWA.

Overall, NRDC said, "We believe the proposed rule to be a strong step forward that is largely consistent with the law's central purpose and broad jurisdiction." However, it urged the agencies to better protect waterways that have an impact on downstream water quality or have important effects on interstate commerce. NRDC also asked for more restrictions on industrial processes such as mountaintop removal coal mining operations, which can potentially compromise sections of natural waterways.

The proposal has received strong support from the public, sporting groups, health organizations, craft beer makers (see "Craft brewers sign comment letter in support of CWA safeguards for U.S. waters"), and others, with more than 775,000 supportive public comments pouring into EPA since it was published (see "Thousands supporting clean water submit comments on 'Waters of the U.S.' definition").

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