U.S. Senator Jack Reed (R.I.) deserves applause for his work to protect the Clean Water Act.
Rhode Islanders rely on clean water, not only for recreation and tourism to Narragansett Bay, but also for agriculture, drinking water, and the livelihoods of fishermen and others. These are just a few reasons why the Clean Water Act, which was passed in 1972, is so important for the health and well-being of Rhode Islanders. In fact, the legislation is in large part responsible for the bay and our waterways being as clean as they are today.
Unfortunately, with a pair of polluter-friendly Supreme Court decisions (SWANCC in 2001 and Rapanos in 2006), our waterways are facing uncertainty. The decisions have left smaller streams and wetlands unprotected under the Clean Water Act. According to EPA data, about 54 percent of streams in Rhode Island are currently inadequately protected from pollution because they are seasonal or intermittent –– and because these small waterways flow into major bodies of water downstream, Narragansett Bay, the Scituate Reservoir and other critical waterways are at risk.
Luckily, the EPA is moving forward with a rule-making to restore the Clean Water Act. But polluters like the oil and gas industry are lobbying Congress to keep the EPA from doing this. Thankfully, despite an onslaught from anti-environment members of Congress, Sen. Reed has succeeded in keeping provisions out of the recent budget appropriations process that would have kept the EPA from restoring the Clean Water Act and otherwise doing their job.
The writer is a student at the University of Rhode Island