Tuesday 19 February 2019

The EPA has proposed a new rule to slash Clean Water Act protections for millions of people. In a blatant giveaway to the fossil fuels industry, industrial agriculture, big developers, and other major polluters, the EPA proposes to remove up to 60% of stream miles and up to 80% of wetland acres from federal protections under the Clean Water Act that safeguard drinking water for millions of people.

Clean water is essential for the health and sustainability of our families, communities and environment. Lest we forget -- we all live downstream and pollution knows no boundaries. We have a responsibility, as a nation, to control pollution at its source and protect the drinking water sources of all residents – regardless of where they live. In the Chesapeake region, streams and tributaries in the upper reaches of the Susquehanna, Potomac, Shenandoah, James and many other rivers, as well as a huge number of wetlands, would not receive protections under the Trump administration’s scheme to repeal the Clean Water Rule.

The Clean Water Act gave us the legal framework to clean the nation’s waterways after decades of neglect had turned some of our rivers into flowing dumps of flammable trash, chemicals, and debris by the 1960s. It gives any citizen the right to sue polluters to protect our waterways.

We oppose this repeal of the 2015 Clean Water Rule and the gutting of protections that have prevented reckless pollution of the nation's waterways for decades. Access to safe drinking water is a prerequisite for healthy, thriving communities, where everyone can participate, prosper and reach their full potential. This proposed rule would put water at risk for too many communities by removing protections for streams and wetlands across the nation and in our region.

What you can do:

1. TAKE ACTION NOW: Click here to submit comments directly to the EPA.

2. Submit you own comments through the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov/All submissions must include the Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OW-2018-0149. Click here for tips on commenting on this rule.

All comments must be received by April 15, 2019

Thank you for taking action. This is the most consequential attack on clean water since the passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972. Congress understood then that to protect the waters of this country, we need to protect all of them.


New law requires excavation of all sites in Chesapeake Bay watershed

Today, Virginia legislators passed a law in a bipartisan effort to safely dispose of toxic coal ash stored on the banks of rivers in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The legislation will require the complete excavation of the more than 28 million tons of coal ash Dominion currently stores at Chesterfield Power Station, Chesapeake Energy Center, Possum Point Power Station, and Bremo Power Station.

“We applaud the efforts of the Potomac and James Riverkeepers who have worked for years in local communities and the courts, with other advocates, legislators and citizens, to find a common sense solution to a legacy of toxic coal ash stored on the banks of our rivers,” said Betsy Nicholas, Executive Director Waterkeepers Chesapeake. “It is critically important to have strong laws on the state level during this time when federal agencies are attempting to eliminate rules protecting our waterways from toxic coal ash and to rollback other Clean Water Act protections.”

The new law will require Dominion to do the following:

  • Excavate all of the coal ash at these four facilities, and either recycle the ash into products like cement and concrete, or place it in modern, lined landfills. At least a quarter of the coal ash must be recycled, and the construction of any new landfills will be subject to local zoning and permitting requirements;
  • Develop a transportation plan with the affected localities where any coal ash needs to be moved offsite; and
  • Prioritize the hiring of local workers throughout the closure process.

Sen. Zirkin, Del. Fraser-Hidalgo Sponsor Pipeline and Water Protection Act

Last week, the Maryland Pipeline and Water Protection Act (PAWPA) was introduced, the latest move to protect Maryland’s waters from dirty, dangerous fracked gas pipelines. PAWPA would require the state of Maryland to conduct a full Water Quality Certification review of any proposed fracked gas pipelines, as it is authorized to do under section 401 of the Clean Water Act. Previously, state authorities abdicated this responsibility when the Potomac Pipeline was proposed. This bill follows the Board of Public Works’ recent decision denying the Potomac Pipeline’s construction easement under the Potomac River. Senator Bobby Zirkin and Delegate David Fraser-Hidalgo, who sponsored the state's 2017 fracking ban, are primary sponsors of PAWPA, SB 387 and HB 669.

Surface and ground waters can suffer long-term harms during the construction of fracked gas pipelines. A drilling blowout can release toxic drilling chemicals into the soil and adjacent waters and construction can alter routes and rates of water flow. Once in operation, gas pipelines continue to pose contamination dangers. Gas leaked from a pipeline includes toxic chemicals and a pipeline failure will release explosive methane.

This legislation would require the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) to use its section 401 authority to conduct full, independent reviews of new, proposed interstate gas pipelines to assess their impact on the state’s water resources.

Waterkeepers Chesapeake supports both bills with an amendment to have the public notice, comment and hearing provisions apply to all projects that fall under CWA Section 401. With the proliferation of proposed gas pipelines, this Act is critically important. There are other types of projects that fall under the 401 section of the Clean Water Act that should also receive improved reviews as outline in the Act.

Waterkeepers Chesapeake is part of a coalition of climate and clean water advocates supporting this Act. Read full press release.