As the debate over new stormwater rules continues in Connecticut, the issue of waterway pollution is getting more and more attention. And rightfully so. According to Department of Energy and Environmental Protection spokesman Dennis Schain, “more than half of the rivers, streams and lakes monitored by DEEP are not clean enough to support recreation and fishing.”
Many people understand the importance of protecting Connecticut’s precious waterways such as the Connecticut River and Long Island Sound, and we must keep in mind that stormwater runoff is not the only major contributor to waterway degradation. Pollution from point sources such as manufacturing and energy plants also is doing its share of damage.
Last week, Environment America released a report titled Polluting Politics, which establishes a link between some of the nation’s largest polluters, and their enormous lobbying expenditures and campaign contributions.
While the 10 biggest polluters in the nation alone were found to have dumped over 90 million tons of toxic pollutants in 2012, the report also found that these same polluters spent more than $53 million dollars on lobbying and $9.4 million dollars on campaign funding for candidates in 2014. These industries are not just muddying our waters, they are muddling our politics as well.
However, there is something that Connecticut residents can do about it: Support the Waters of the United States Rule. The Waters of the United States Rule was proposed by the EPA last spring to close loopholes in the Clean Water Act, after Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006 left in limbo the status of many streams and wetlands previously protected under the act — 3,000 miles of streams and wetlands in Connecticut alone. The rule is a crucial step in working to prevent the degradation of waterways like our beloved Long Island Sound by clarifying legal safeguards for the 52 percent of streams and wetlands across Connecticut that drain into it yet currently lack federal protections.
Unfortunately, this rule has been attacked vigorously in Congress by members backed by big coal, oil, and agribusinesses — the same industries that have, year after year, been polluting these very waterways that the rule would protect. Fortunately, environmental champions such as our senators Murphy and Blumenthal have responded with their support for this Rule. With the biggest environmental achievement for clean water in over a decade on the verge of victory, we cannot let up the pressure. As Environment America’s Polluting Politics report showed, big industries have proven their willingness to use their deep pockets to push their dangerous, anti-environmental agenda in Washington. As concerned and responsible citizens, it is our duty to show our support for this rule and to continue to ask our decision-makers representing us in our Capitol to voice their support.
Connecticut relies on clean waterways for clean drinking water, fishing, swimming, recreation, and strong local economies and communities. The clean water rule should be something that we can agree on. While this is by no means an attempt to diminish the stormwater issue, it is, nevertheless, a reminder that there exists one simple and logical step that we can agree to take together toward protecting our environment for generations to come.
Jack Braun is a junior at Dartmouth College and an intern at Environment Connecticut.
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