Water is the lifeblood of the United States. Last week, American Rivers released findings for their 33rd annual 10 Most-Endangered Rivers report. Those vital waterways are economic drivers at a crossroads, which face existential threats. Notably, they are pivotal resources that could be protected in 2018.
Clean water is being compromised by politicians ostensibly making it a partisan issue when it shouldn’t be. The waters industry, not to be confused with the bottled water business, provides drinking water and wastewater services to industrial, residential and commercial sectors of our economy. Public utilities and municipalities rely on low-interest loans from the state revolving loan funds program from Congress. Every US family is thought to be entitled not to be poisoned or killed by water flowing from their taps, regardless of their zip code. While there is no such thing as free government money to invest in water infrastructure, appropriators in the Senate and House of Representatives must strike a shrewd balance.
While it sounds absurd to citizens living outside the Beltway, a partisan class of political appointees disdain their unelected public employee counterparts working at the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Unrelenting, they scheme to defund budgets — actions that ultimately prevent them from effectively doing their jobs. While all public employees take an oath to serve the US public, the Pew Research Center says that public trust among elected officials has hit historic lows. In 2017, only 18 percent of Americans said they trust the government in Washington, DC to do what is right “just about always” (3 percent) or “most of the time” (15 percent). Still, those elected officials marginalize those defending the health of Americans. The tyranny of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt intimidates unselfish public servants forced to retire so that their jobs can be privatized.
In contrast, federal employees trained as engineers, lawyers and others trust empirical indicators provided by scientists to determine if our rivers, lakes and reservoirs are safe. Hundreds of the US’s civil-servant officials enforce regulations to keep our waters swimmable, drinkable and fishable. Under this White House, professional civilian workers are under siege and an adequate federal budget for protecting clean water is currently nowhere in sight.
Brazenly, President Trump praises Pruitt for “successfully” carrying out his deregulation agenda. His assault on public health and the environment would allow toxins and other contaminants to pollute the US’s defenseless watersheds. Pruitt’s repeal of the Clean Water Rule is currently caught up in the courts. However, in an internal memo leaked this month that received little press attention, Pruitt revoked all the delegations allowing each of the 10 EPA Regions to determine whether those essential local waters would be regulated under the Clean Water Act.
The memorandum discusses “geographic jurisdiction,” in which the Agency determines whether bodies of water may be protected the Clean Water Act. Historically, all waters — including major waterways, tributaries and wetlands — were regulated under the law. Its broad jurisdiction and authority were reaffirmed by the “Waters of the U.S.” rule promulgated in 2015. In the leaked memo, Pruitt notified EPA staff that he would now oversee this decision-making process so he can allow major industries to pollute our natural resource waters. The results would be devastating as the new order reduces the influence of EPA scientists and specialists who know those lakes and streams best and work locally in regional offices.
Pruitt’s recent ethical transgressions do not compare to his audacious capacity for denying EPA’s appropriate role in regulating water and air pollution as well as how to act on climate change.
This EPA administrator schemes and deliberately sows doubt about the warming of our planet and to what degree humans are responsible. In February, Pruitt told KSNV-TV in Las Vegas that humans thrive during warming trends and it may not be true that a warmer climate “necessarily is a bad thing.”
President Trump’s plan to destroy the hard-fought clean water protections that safeguard public health all US communities continues apace. After all, it is not really “the swamp” in Washington, DC that Trump wants to drain. With Pruitt’s help, Trump wants to deplete all the real swamps, rivers, lakes, streams and wetlands, and replace them with profitable streams of pollution.