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Obama Administration Takes Important Step toward Protecting America’s Waterways

Environment America

From the Chesapeake Bay to the Puget Sound to the many smaller waters in between, America’s waterways are today one step closer to protection under the Clean Water Act, as the Obama administration is now in the final stage of issuing guidelines to restore critical Clean Water Act protections to the nation’s waterways.

“This is an important step forward for America’s waters and the people who depend on them and enjoy them,” said Shelley Vinyard, federal clean water advocate for Environment America. “Once these guidelines are final, everyone from the Great Lakes fisherman to the family visiting the shores of the Narragansett Bay will be able to reap the rewards of cleaner water.”

The guidelines come at a time when nearly 60 percent of the country’s streams, 20 million acres of wetlands, and 117 million Americans’ drinking water is at risk of pollution, thanks to two polluter-friendly Supreme Court decisions in the last decade. The guidelines, which were proposed last April, received overwhelming support from ordinary citizens, thousands of public health professionals, and hundreds of farmers, local elected officials, and recreational businesses—from Confluence Kayaks in Colorado to Angus Murdoch, a farmer from central Virginia.

The proposed guidelines are expected to be finalized by early spring, and were sent to the Office of Management and Budget on Feb. 22.

The industries primarily responsible for this pollution—mega-agribusiness, the coal industry, Big Oil and big developers, are fighting to block these guidelines. In fact, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced a bill Feb. 16 that, if passed, would block the president and his administration from ever finalizing these guidelines, and would leave as many as 2.5 million miles of streams nationwide permanently unprotected.

“We are excited that the administration has taken this step toward restoring the Clean Water Act and has reiterated its commitment to protecting America’s waterways from pollution,” Vinyard said. “We are counting on the Obama administration to continue to stand up to big polluters, and look forward to working with them to ensure all Americans have clean water in which to swim, fish, recreate, and drink.”

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