All of life requires water, clean pure water. It's something we take for granted, but shouldn't. Dirty water remains a constant threat we must work to ensure doesn't harm our children and loved ones.
Is our water safe? Increasingly, the answer is no. A major reason is that we are not adequately protecting the sources of clean water for 1-in-3 Americans, called headwaters.
For Christians called by Jesus to love others and defend the vulnerable, and for others of good will, this situation is unacceptable and presents an opportunity to make a difference. We must work for a righteous water supply.
An important part of the reason our water isn’t safe for many is the inability of our government to adequately enforce the Clean Water Act. In effect, in many cases our clean water cops are no longer on the beat, with nearly half of major polluters effectively beyond their reach. Because of this hindering of enforcement, right now the drinking water sources of 1 in 3 Americans are threatened and increasingly undefended, and enforcement actions have dropped by almost half.
Passed in 1972 and strengthened during the Reagan years, the Clean Water Act put America on the right track in defending our waters for supplying drinking water systems, agriculture, industry, and recreation. However, a number of court decisions and Congressional inaction have "muddied the waters" by thwarting our ability to protect what are known as “headwaters,” or the beginnings of our streams and rivers, as well as many wetlands. What was once easily defined during the Reagan Administration now is a total mess of confusion, inaction, and failure.
A great deal of the problem stems from a decision in 2006 by the Supreme Court in Rapanos v. United States. Unfortunately, rendering a 4-1-4 vote, the Justices could not agree on whether certain types of headwaters and wetlands fell under the Act’s protection. Justice Kennedy, the “1” of the 4-1-4, wrote his own opinion. He stated that headwaters and wetlands with a “significant nexus” to navigable waters are to be protected, i.e., those that “significantly affect the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of other covered waters” (p. 23). The EPA and the Army Corps wrote the 2015 Clean Water Rule to comply with Justice Kennedy’s decision, and a majority of subsequent lower court cases have followed the Kennedy opinion as well.
Unfortunately, the Trump Administration’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), along with the Army Corps of Engineers, recently issued a rule rescinding the Clean Water Rule of 2015. This is terrible news for our children. As pro-life Christians, we stand firmly against actions by the President and his Administration that will make our water sources dirtier, as this will do. There are two things this rule does.
First, it holds in place our current regulatory situation, which is a mess of confusion. The result? Nearly half of the major polluters are beyond the reach of the EPA. Good for these polluters. Bad for our kids. That’s because these polluters will continue to hide some of their costs – the pollution – in the bodies of our children. Irresponsible and unjust.
Second, it seeks to have a crucial clause in the Clean Water Act follow the interpretation of Justice Scalia rather than Justice Kennedy. The result? Many fewer bodies of water will now fall under the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act and the EPA’s authority. This means dirtier water for many Americans, because far fewer bodies of water will be protected under Justice Scalia’s much narrower opinion.
Here’s what the Trump Administration’s EPA Director, Scott Pruitt, said about this awful rule:
"We are taking significant action to return power to the states and provide regulatory certainty to our nation's farmers and businesses."
We find this statement absolutely incredible. Administrator Pruitt continues to not understand his role. Here is what the EPA’s own website says about its mission:
“The mission of EPA is to protect human health and the environment. EPA's purpose is to ensure that: all Americans are protected from significant risks to human health and the environment where they live, learn and work …”
Instead, what Trump EPA Administrator Pruitt is concerned about is “power to the states” and “regulatory certainty” for business.
What about the health of our kids?
The whole point of national pollution laws is that air and water pollution cross state lines; they care nothing about our artificial political dividing lines.
As for “regulatory certainty,” we’re all for that. That’s why we needed the 2015 Clean Water Rule, to help provide a clear understanding of what was required to protect human health and the environment – the mission of the EPA and the reason we have laws like the Clean Water Act.
Our own history shows that once you inform businesses and those to be regulated what they are required to do to protect public health by reducing pollution, they find cost-effective and creative ways to comply. So we want regulatory certainty, too. That’s a major problem with our current situation in terms of clean water; it’s a mess of confusion. What Administrator Pruitt and the Trump Administration are calling for, however, is regulatory certainty that allows for more pollution.
The result? Our children are less safe today than when this Trump Water Rule was issued on June 27. The most basic function of government is to protect its citizens. This new EPA rule fails that test. It should be opposed by all pro-life Christians.
We need a Clean Water Rule like the one issued in 2015 based on Justice Kennedy’s opinion, or clarifying legislation that achieves the same or greater results. This would allow us once again to attain the level of water purity achieved during the Reagan years, and then to build upon such success for even greater water purity and a righteous water supply.