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Water Matters

Water Matters

This week, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps’ of Engineers released a final Waters of the U.S. rule clarifying the purview of regulations for the Clean Water Act. While this may sound a little wonky, the Clean Water Act is an incredibly important foundation for environmental protection in the United States. The Clean Water Act, passed in 1972, was intended to restore the environmental integrity of American waters, which were being polluted by chemical, biological, and physical contamination.

In 2001 and again in 2006 in two separate cases, the Supreme Court issued rulings related to the Clean Water Act that left certain portions of the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps’ of Engineers’ regulatory capacity in question. The Waters of the U.S. rule, issued this week, was a direct response to those Court cases and will finally clarify that the EPA and Army Corps’ of Engineers can regulate not only bodies of water, but also the upstream sources of those bodies like small rivers and streams. Without the new Waters of the U.S. rule, much environmental regulation would be inadequate to the task of ensuring clean water standards.

Barbara Weinstein, Associate Director of Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, submitted testimony in favor of the rule in November 2014:

Water pollution is an immense environmental and political challenge, and for the Reform Jewish Movement, it is a moral and spiritual challenge as well. Biblical commentary in Kohelet Rabbah (1:4) reminds us that “one generation goes, another comes, but the earth remains the same forever.” We understand that as stewards of the environment, we have a responsibility to safeguard our planet so that future generation will have clean, potable water.

You can read the full testimony here.

On this day, Barbara Weinstein issued a statement commending the rule upon its release:

The new rule’s definition of “Waters of the U.S.” will help protect critical water resources by improving regulation of tributary streams and adjacent waters which, until now, legal uncertainties have too often allowed to be diluted by pollutants. We urge the Environmental Protection Agency to continue to work to protect our natural resources and clarify legal uncertainty and we call on Congress to act as a partner in this important process of protecting the waters that sustain us all.”

You can read the full statement here.

While this rule is an important step, there is certainly much more to be done to ensure that our waters and air are free from pollution. If you’re interested in doing more, talk to your congregation about performing an energy audit and lowering your carbon emissions with the GreenFaith program.

Published: 5/29/2015

Categories: Social Justice