Topic: Clean Water Act

December 16, 2015

Ding Dong. The-Witch-is-Dead.

Clean Water Rule saved from wicked attacks in Congress.

Today marks a very important victory in our battle to save EPA’s Clean Water Rule from a phalanx in Congress intent on destroying the rule by any legislative-means necessary. Opponents in Congress failed three times to stop a rule that will provide critical protection to our nation’s most vulnerable streams and wetlands that in turn give life to our larger rivers.

Clean Water kills the Wicked Witch.

Clean Water kills the Wicked Witch.

The attacks on the rule were relentless and you may say wicked, favoring polluters over the 1 in 3 Americans who get their drinking water from the streams protected by the Clean Water Rule.

To develop this rule, EPA held over 400 meetings, reviewed more than 1200 peer-reviewed scientific studies and amended the proposed rule to address the many concerns of big agriculture. The agency received over one million comments on the rule, which it considered before issuing a final rule in May, 2015. None of this was enough for certain congressional delegates.

First, a bill introduced by Senator John Barrasso would have blocked the Clean Water Rule AND narrowed the historical protections of the Clean Water Act itself.

Immediately following the defeat of the Barrasso bill, both chambers of Congress introduced a Congressional Review Act (CRA) challenge. The CRA is an extreme, rarely used tool for blocking federal rules, and is generally used by incoming presidents to overturn rules of the outgoing administration. Although the CRA challenge passed both houses of Congress, proponents did not gain enough votes to override a presidential veto.

Shamelessly, congressional opponents tried again with an anti-Clean Water Rule rider to the omnibus appropriations bills. And we defeated them again! We learned today that Congress agreed upon a spending bill that did not contain any riders attacking the Clean Water Rule. Hooray!

Yet the war to protect America’s rivers and wetlands is far from over. As we wrote previously, the rule faces legal challenges in federal courts across the country, including the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which is expected to rule shortly on whether it has jurisdiction to hear the case.

But for now, let us take a moment to celebrate. We’ve worked tirelessly to defeat the many challenges thrown at us, and it is a true victory to have defeated them. THANK YOU!  

The Congressional Witch is “really most sincerely dead!”  Sing it high, sing it low.

October 25, 2015

UPDATE: Clean Water Rule on Hold

UPDATE: November 18, 2015

Congressional Attempts to Kill Clean Water Rule Beaten Back

Prairie Rivers Network & friends urging Illinois Attorney General to intervene on behalf of Clean Water Rule.

Since we last posted on the Clean Water Rule, Senate Republicans have made two attempts to kill the Rule. One attempt was with a bill introduced by Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming; what many have called the Dirty Water Bill. The second attempt was made using the Congressional Review Act, which is a law that gives Congress the power to invalidate an agency regulation through passage of a joint resolution.

We’re happy to report that Senator Barrasso’s Dirty Water Bill was defeated and that we fully expect the Congressional Review Act challenge to be vetoed by President Obama.

But victory is not quite here yet. There remains a very real threat that opponents in Congress will destroy the rule through the appropriations process, which controls expenditures by the federal government. We expect opponents to, among other things introduce measures that would prevent the EPA and the Army Corps from spending any money to implement the rule, rendering it meaningless. Prairie Rivers Network and other national allies will work to defeat these attempts.

Epiphany Farms is #4cleanwater

Meanwhile, Prairie Rivers Network has been organizing farmers and business owners in Illinois to write to Illinois’ Attorney General Lisa Madigan and urge her to intervene in the Court of Appeals lawsuit (discussed below) on behalf of the people of Illinois and in support of the Clean Water Rule. Several states have already done so, and we think Illinois should join them.

Original Post: October 25, 2015

Clean Water Rule Put on Temporary Hold by U.S. Court of Appeals

Prairie Rivers Network continues to work hard to see rule is upheld

Over the past year, we’ve blogged, tweeted, created video, posted on Facebook, organized, and just generally talked a lot about the Clean Water Rule.  The rule was finalized by the U.S. EPA this summer and was scheduled to take effect on August 28th, 2015. As is the custom with new regulations these days, the rule was challenged in court by industries intent on ensuring anti-pollution regulations do not apply to them. Unfortunately, many states, apparently beholden to these industries, joined the anti-Clean Water Rule lawsuits.

Most recently, on October 5, 2015, a federal appellate court granted a temporary stay on the rule, meaning U.S. EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers cannot implement the rule until the court proceedings are settled. It’s important to note that the very court issuing the temporary stay noted the long overdue need for the clarifications the new rule strives to achieve and the reliable nature of the science used to formulate the rule.

kid fishing_photo credit: Jason Lindsey

Because the rule is so necessary, because it was extensively vetted by qualified scientists, and because a great majority of Americans polled support the Clean Water Rule, we are confident  the courts will uphold the rule, and that we will finally get down to the business of protecting our smallest, most vulnerable streams and wetlands.  In the meantime, Prairie Rivers Network will continue to work with our allies across the nation to realize the benefits of this important rule.

September 14, 2015

Senator Kirk Joins the Dark Side


Well, Senator Mark Kirk is clearly no Jedi warrior. Last week he co-sponsored Senator John Barrasso’s dirty water bill, a bill that would kill EPA’s new Clean Water Rule. We love the Clean Water Rule, because it protects our smallest, yet most important streams and wetlands. These waters are currently providing drinking water for 1 in 10 Illinoisans. In fact, without the Clean Water Rule, 90% of the wetlands in the Great Lakes and many of the streams that feed the Lakes would be at risk of pollution and destruction.

By co-sponsoring the bill, Senator Kirk put the interests of polluting industries ahead of clean drinking water and healthy rivers. Senator Barrasso’s bill is a sham of a bill based on fear and greed and a lust for power-all expressions of the Dark Side of the Force.

We are dismayed that Senator Kirk joined the Dark Side, but it’s not too late, Senator. There’s still time to choose the light, to choose clean water and to protect the life force that sustains us all. Be a Jedi. Be #4cleanwater. Vote No on Barrasso’s #dirtywaterbill.

August 31, 2015

Press Release: A Landmark for Clean Water

American Rivers * Clean Water Action * Environment America * Natural Resources Defense Council * League of Conservation Voters * Prairie Rivers Network * River Network * Sierra Club


Contact: Michael Kelly, 202.393.5449,

Washington (August 28, 2015) – A coalition of conservation groups today said they are mobilizing their millions of members and activists in support of the Clean Water Rule and to oppose efforts in Congress to block it.

Their call comes as the long-awaited rule, issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers (the Corps), took effect across most of the nation on Friday, August 28. Unfortunately, due to a temporary injunction issued by the District of North Dakota, EPA and the Corps cannot implement the rule in 13 states involved in litigation.

In a group statement, American Rivers, Clean Water Action, Environment America, the Natural Resources Defense Council, League of Conservation Voters, Prairie Rivers Network, River Network, and Sierra Club said:

 “Today is a landmark in the history of clean water protection. Though we are disappointed by the temporary injunction in North Dakota, which leaves the water families and communities rely on in 13 states at risk of pollution and destruction, we are confident that commonsense, science-based protections for our water will prevail in the courts. The Clean Water Act authorizes EPA and the Corps to safeguard the bodies of water that have a significant impact on downstream waters and that is what the Clean Water Rule does.

Public support for the Clean Water Rule has never wavered and Americans will not tolerate efforts, in Congress or the courts, to turn back the clock now. Recent polls show that majorities of Americans across the political spectrum want their elected officials to get out of the way and let the Clean Water Rule go forward. However, the assault on clean water protections continues.  Defying common sense, science, and their constituents, a number of states filed suit to stop the Rule; and Republican leaders in both the House and Senate attached riders to must-pass spending bills that would roll back the Clean Water Rule, even though the Obama administration has rightly threatened to veto these measures. These actions raise the specter of another government shutdown this fall.  In addition, the Senate is very likely to debate S. 1140, a bill to stop the Clean Water Rule and force the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps to start over.

Americans are tired of polluters and their political defenders politicizing clean water. Our millions of members and supporters understand what’s at stake, and we will make sure their voices are heard by members of Congress to ensure the Clean Water Rule is implemented without delay.”

The Clean Water Rule eliminates  loopholes that for more than a decade left roughly 60% of the nation’s small streams and millions of acres of wetlands vulnerable to pollution and destruction. The Clean Water Rule restores clear protections to the drinking water supplies for nearly a third of all Americans.

Small business owners, local governments, public health professionals, religious leaders, rural interests and the general public support the Clean Water Rule.  Despite this broad public support, polluters—led by lobbyists for corporate agribusiness, oil and gas, and big developers—are exerting heavy pressure on Congress to undermine the Clean Water Rule.

For more information, please visit

See how the Clean Water Rule will protect Illinois waters

July 22, 2015

Press Release – New Poll: Hunters and Anglers Nationwide Support the EPA’s Clean Water Rule

July 22, 2015

New Poll: Hunters and Anglers Nationwide Support the EPA’s Clean Water Rule

Sportsmen and women across the political spectrum support protecting smaller streams and wetlands

Washington—A new nationwide, bipartisan survey found broad support among hunters and anglers for applying Clean Water Act protections to smaller streams and wetlands.

“As every hunter or angler knows, ducks need healthy wetlands and fish need clean water—it’s that simple,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, which commissioned the poll. “Everyone on Capitol Hill should take note: clean water has the bipartisan support of millions of sportsmen and women across our nation—and these men and women vote.”

Download the poll memo.

One of the poll’s key findings is that more than 8 in 10 of the hunters and anglers (83 percent) surveyed thought that the Environmental Protection Agency should apply the rules and standards of the Clean Water Act to smaller, headwater streams and wetlands. Support for this policy was strong across the political spectrum with 77 percent of Republicans, 79 percent of Independents and 97 percent of Democrats in favor.

“The results of this poll are unambiguous: America’s hunters and anglers care very deeply about water quality,” said Al Quinlan, the president of Democratic polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research. “It is unusual to see such intense levels of public support for any issue.”

“I am the fourth generation of my family that has loved to fish the Wabash River. My sons are the fifth, said Illinois based artist and avid fisherman, Tony Treadway. “I have always lived or worked near Illinois waterways. I have seen the change from when I started fishing in the 1960’s and how much cleaner and better the rivers are now as a result of the environmental protection acts, like the Clean Water Act. I hope that the rivers continue to improve in their health so that they will be there for my grandchildren and great grandchildren to enjoy as I have in my lifetime.”

The issue of protecting smaller streams and wetlands adjacent to those streams has been politically contentious in recent years. The Clean Water Act protected all of the nation’s streams and wetlands from its passage in 1972 until two split Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006 left it unclear exactly which streams and wetlands could be covered by the law.

The bipartisan research team of Public Opinion Strategies (R) and Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research (D) partnered on the survey of 1000 registered voters who also hunt or fish. The sample leaned conservative—38 percent of those polled were Republicans, while just 28 percent were Democrats. Almost half of those surveyed (49 percent) said they considered themselves a supporter of the Tea Party.

“It would be hard to find a more conservative group than the hunters and anglers we polled,” said Lori Weigel, a partner at the Republican polling firm Public Opinion Strategies. “And yet their support of this policy is broad‐based and wide‐spread, cutting across partisan and ideological divisions. And it endures after hearing the arguments against it.”

In May, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers finalized a rule clarifying that the Clean Water Act applies to more than half of the nation’s streams and millions of acres of wetlands—bodies of water that had been in a legal limbo for more than a decade. However, Congress is considering legislation that would undermine or nullify this rule.

Additional results from the poll:

  • Fully 89 percent say that the Clean Water Act has been “more of a good thing” for the country, with majorities of every single demographic sub‐group echoing this sentiment.
  • More than 8 in 10 sportsmen (82 percent) agree with the statement: “We can protect our water quality and have a strong economy with good jobs for Americans at the same time, without having to choose one over the other.”
  • Three-quarters (75 percent) of hunters and anglers see applying the Clean Water Act to smaller streams and wetlands is more of a safeguard, rather than a burdensome regulation.
  • Almost half of those surveyed (47 percent) say that water quality and fish and wildlife habitat issues are of primary importance to their voting decisions. Nearly all sportsmen say these issues are at least somewhat significant in their voting decisions (92 percent).
  • Two-thirds (67 percent) say they would have a more favorable opinion if their Senator upheld this application of the Clean Water Act. Only one-in-ten would feel less favorably (11 percent).

“Hunters and anglers were the original conservationists and their support for this policy comes as no surprise,” said Jim Martin, conservation director at the Berkley Conservation Institute, a branch of Pure Fishing, one of the largest tackle manufacturers in the sportfishing industry. “Restoring Clean Water Act protections to smaller streams and wetlands will help the economy, protect our drinking water and allow us to pass the great sport of fishing down to future generations. Congress should allow this common-sense rule to take effect without delay.”

“I cannot fathom the thought of my kids not being able to hunt or fish in the streams here in Illinois, says Dan Sidwell, President of the Oyate Sports Club in Pocahontas, IL, who is supportive of the Clean Water Act. “Outdoor recreation and sports are a tradition in downstate Illinois. As an avid hunter, fisherman and outdoorsman, I believe it’s our responsibility to take care of our streams, rivers and lakes. If we don’t what will we leave for our children?”

About the methodology

From June 23–July 4, 2015, Public Opinion Strategies and Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research completed 1000 interviews with registered voters who also identify as hunters, anglers or both. Half of the interviews were conducted on landline and cell phones, with the other half conducted via internet panels. Respondents are from throughout the United States and the sample was compared to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service surveys of adults who hunt or fish for demographic representation.

The National Wildlife Federation is America’s largest conservation organization inspiring Americans to protect wildlife for our children’s future. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and InstagramPrairie Rivers Network is National Wildlife Federation’s Illinois Affiliate and Illinois’ advocate for clean water and healthy rivers. 

Lacey McCormick, (512) 610-7765,
National Wildlife Federation

Carol Hays, (217) 344-2371,
Prairie Rivers Network, Illinois Affiliate of the National Wildlife Federation


July 16, 2015

Senator Kirk’s Great Lakes Water Protection Act: Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing?

We’re not really sure what Senator Kirk is up to now. His Great Lakes Water Protection Act was always a bit sketchy in that it appeared to simply prohibit what the Clean Water Act already prohibits. Basically, Kirk’s Protection Act outlaws the dumping of untreated sewage to the Great Lakes by 2035. The Act would also increase the penalties for those caught dumping sewage and direct those penalties to a trust fund to be used for improving sewage treatment, habitat protection, and wetland restoration in the Great Lakes region.

wolf-in-sheeps-clothingSounds great, right? Well, two problems.  First, as we said, the Clean Water Act already prohibits the dumping of untreated sewage.  So why didn’t Senator Kirk’s bill simply increase the penalties, create the trust fund,  and let the  Clean Water Act do its job?

Second, and far more troubling, Senator Kirk attached his Great Lakes Protection Act to an Interior appropriations bill crammed with poisonous provisions that among other offenses kill EPA’s Clean Water Rule and its budget by cutting $1billion of the agency’s funding.  The appropriations bill also cuts State Revolving Funds (SRF), which is federal money used to help finance sewage treatment upgrades. Nonsensical!  Kirk naturally voted for the appropriations bill and his Great Lakes Protection Act.

EPA’s new Clean Water Rule (and the SRF) provides essential protection to water quality in the Great Lakes. Without the new rule, 90% of the wetlands in the Great Lakes and many of the streams that are tributary to the Great Lakes remain at risk of pollution and destruction.

So, what is Kirk doing?   It appears he’s using his Great Lakes Water Protection Act to cloak the very dirty pro-polluter agenda of destroying the EPA. Kirk thinks he can vote to kill fundamental environmental protections AND be a champion of the Great Lakes.

Well, you can’t fool us, Senator Kirk. Stop undermining the Clean Water Act while pretending to protect the Great Lakes.