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Natural Awakenings Atlanta

Water Protection Opportunity is on the Table

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed a rule to close loopholes in the Clean Water Act that leave 57 percent of Georgia’s streams and millions of acres of wetlands at risk of unchecked pollution and development.

“With the drinking water for nearly 5 million Georgians at risk, we’re thrilled to see the EPA moving forward to protect our waterways,” says Jennette Gayer, director of Environment Georgia, which has worked for nearly a decade to restore Clean Water Act protections. “Today’s action is about securing that all our water is safe and healthy. Whether we’re floating down the ‘Hooch, fishing in our favorite stream or just drinking the water that comes from our tap, we need Georgia’s waterways to be clean and protected.”

The rule, which could be finalized as soon as later this year, would restore Clean Water Act protections to many of Georgia’s wetlands and more than half Georgia’s streams. With so much at stake, Environment Georgia and its sister groups across the country have waged an intensive multi-year campaign to restore these Clean Water Act protections, including more than 1 million face-to-face conversations with people across the country and rallying more than 400 local elected officials, 300 farmers and 300 small business owners to call on the federal government to take action.

The EPA has already released a draft science report on the connection between smaller streams and wetlands and downstream waters, which makes the scientific case for the rulemaking. Members of the public submitted more than 150,000 public comments in support of the report’s findings that these waterways merit protection under the law.

Many of the nation’s biggest polluters are already weighing in against the rulemaking, spreading misinformation about the rule’s potential impacts. While the EPA has announced the rule will preserve all existing Clean Water Act exemptions for the agricultural sector, the American Farm Bureau is insisting that the rulemaking is a “land grab” by the EPA. The American Farm Bureau Federation is one of 28 members of the Waters Advocacy Coalition, an industry group formed to lobby against clean water protections.

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