ROME — Thanks to the Clean Water Act, introduced by Sen. Ed Muskie and passed with strong bipartisan support in 1972, rivers in Maine that used to change color depending on what was being produced at the mill that day now run clear, are “fishable and swimmable” and no longer produce fumes that peel the paint off bridges. The Clean Water Act has been highly effective because it is rigorous and science-based, and Congress has made it a bipartisan funding priority for 45 years, providing resources to the states to carry out their requirements under the law.

However, the current presidential administration is now proposing revisions to a key component of the Clean Water Act, putting at risk the gains we’ve made. We citizens have until midnight Monday to speak out against these changes, and we should press our members of Congress to take action to protect our waterways.

When the Clean Water Act was passed, it applied to the “waters of the United States,” which were never clearly defined, and two different courts had appellate jurisdiction over different sections of the law. To clear up the confusion, the previous administration went through a multi-year, open, science-based rule-making process. It analyzed and synthesized over 1,200 peer-reviewed scientific studies and reviewed years of public comments in order to develop the Clean Water Rule: a clear definition of “waters of the United States” that protected headwater streams and wetlands. A cost-benefit analysis by experts concluded the new rule would better protect water quality and provide a 2-to-1 ratio of benefits to costs.

On Aug. 27, 2015, the day before the Clean Water Rule was due to take effect, implementation was stayed by two different courts over jurisdictional issues. Ultimately, the Supreme Court ruled that the District Courts had jurisdiction; the rule is currently in effect in 22 states, including Maine. This effectively stopped the current administration’s plans to expedite the repeal and replacement of the 2015 rule by bypassing the Administrative Procedure Act.

Although the administration must follow the process set out by the Administrative Procedure Act, it is trying to stack the deck against a fair review of the Clean Water Rule. It is ignoring the science, which overwhelmingly concludes that water flows downhill and wetlands and intermittent streams are connected to surface waters; manipulating the required cost-benefit analysis; holding a single public hearing, in Kansas City, and leaving the public comment period open for only 60 days. Monday is the last day when comments will be accepted.

The Clean Water Rule is particularly beneficial to Maine, which relies on clean water to provide ecotourism jobs and protect the headwater streams that are the breeding waters for our native brook trout. To reopen these rules after years of solid bipartisan negotiation is bad government, while implementing the proposed “Dirty Water Rule” would be a major step backward for our state and pose grave risks to the drinking water for millions of Americans. The new rules would strip protections from 18% of existing stream miles, as well as streams that flow only when it rains or the snow melts and significant amounts of currently protected wetlands. These critical headwater streams and wetlands filter and trap pollutants near the source, before they flow downstream.

Maine’s lakes are the crown jewels of Maine’s landscape. These public assets generate over $3.5 billion in economic activity annually, directly supporting 52,000 jobs, powering local economies and property-tax bases and providing drinking water to two-thirds of Mainers. Unfortunately, the proposed repeal of the Clean Water Rule and the drastic (over 30%) cuts proposed to the budget for federal clean air and clean water programs would have a significant adverse effect on Maine’s lakes and rivers. Few things are as fundamental to life as clean water.

Please contact your U.S. representatives and senators and ask them to work to protect the Clean Water Rule and restore funding to clean water programs in the Environmental Protection Agency budget. Ask them to ensure that a transparent, science-based process with public input is used to effect any potential changes. Ask them to ensure that Sen. Muskie’s Clean Water Act not become an unfunded mandate in the state of Maine. And by midnight Monday, visit bit.ly/2v0ZrMp to recommend that the Clean Water Rule not be replaced by the “Dirty Water Rule.”


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