By: Cindy Lowry, Alabama Rivers Alliance executive director
Alabama’s attorney general is once again wasting taxpayer dollars to enter into a frivolous lawsuit against the federal government. Yet again, our AG is challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s efforts to clarify which waters–or “waters of the United States”–are covered under the Clean Water Act. This time, in a science-based rule that effectively restores the longstanding protections adopted by the Bush administration and implemented for decades by bipartisan practice. EPA adopted its rule after listening to State, local, and Tribal governments; meeting with industry, conservation, and other stakeholders; seeking advice from the Science Advisory Board, and reviewing about 114,000 comments.
Disinformation campaigns against strong clean water protections have been prolific and well-funded over the years, especially by industrial polluters and large corporate agriculture interests. The truth is that there is overwhelming scientific consensus and public support for the protection of wetlands and headwater streams. In fact, most farming activities have been exempt from Clean Water Act regulation for decades, many since the Act’s creation, and that remains true today. Those who want you to believe differently are simply protecting large corporate agriculture and polluter interests, at the expense of families and communities.
Americans need our wetlandsbecause they provide numerous beneficial functions. In addition to being vital for fisheries and the water quality of our rivers and streams, wetlands help protect many Southern communities facing more frequent and intense flooding. These valuable functions are essential to the health of our waterways that add to what we all love about Alabama. Whether you fish, swim, boat on or simply drink water, we all rely on healthy rivers and streams.
Quite interestingly, AG Steve Marshall’s argument for entering the lawsuit with 23 other states is “In Alabama, we have one of the nation’s most diverse and robust aquatic ecosystems, and the responsibility of managing those waters rests first with the state of Alabama, not federal bureaucrats.”
I wonder if AG Marshall believes that we are currently managing our waters adequately in Alabama? Let’s take a look at the facts:
The Alabama Department of Environmental Management, the agency responsible for implementing and enforcing the Clean Water Act in Alabama, is currently the least funded environmental agency in the country.
Alabama has no water management plan and government leaders have failed to take up the task of planning for the long-term resiliency of our waters for decades.
Alabama is ranked #5 among all states for the amount of toxic substances released (legally) into our waterways in this 2020 report.
Countless complaints are filed with the Alabama Department of Environmental Management each year by citizens concerned about pollution, odors, and other harmful environmental activities in their backyards. Many go unresolved.
Fighting EPA’s rulemaking effort in an attempt to reduce protections under the Clean Water Act is not in the best interest of Alabamians and AG Marshall should not be spending valuable state time and resources to protect corporate interests instead of people. Stating that Alabama is or can somehow adequately manage its own waters with current leadership, funding levels, and political will is downright delusional.
While there isn’t much that we as Alabamians can do about AG Marshall’s continued ill-advised, wasteful actions, there is something we can do right now to help protect clean water.
Early next week, the U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote on a measure that would repeal EPA’s rule restoring the longstanding Clean Water Act protections for critical wetlands and streams. Call your U.S. Representative and urge them to vote NO on House Joint Resolution 27. You can see some suggested talking points by clicking here.