Minnesotans are proud of our natural resources and take seriously the obligation to ensure that our children and grandchildren have access to clean water, now and in the future. But often we fall short in protecting clean drinking water for everyone.
A ZIP code or neighborhood should not determine whether communities have reliable access to safe drinking water. Unfortunately, that is often the case. Low-income communities and communities of color across the nation are a greater risk of exposure to contaminated water and can face disproportionate health impacts.
Polluted water resources and unreliable access to clean drinking water can contribute to poor societal outcomes, including lack of economic and educational advancement. On the other hand, clean bodies of water are the foundation of thriving communities.
Water equity problems are structural and have existed long before this Congress and the Trump administration. But congressional Republicans and this EPA are actively working to undermine clean-water protections, which would exacerbate these problems. Instead of building on prior bipartisan efforts to reduce the inequity in access to clean water, these politicians want to make it harder for more people to safely access water — endangering communities across the country with more harmful pollution.
Federal support is important
Even here in Minnesota, where love for water is part of our heritage and our culture, we rely on the enforcement of strong laws to protect this precious resource. And although we have protective laws on the books, we still fall short and need federal support and cooperation to limit agricultural runoff and other sources of pollution in our water. Water pollution does not stop at state lines. Without the resources of the EPA and the federal laws that serve as the basis for our state protections, these problems will get worse.
In 2015 EPA clarified that more than half the nation’s small streams and 20 million acres of wetlands must be protected under the Clean Water Act. These small streams feed drinking-water sources across the country, and the wetlands filter pollutants and protect communities from flooding. Corporate polluters and special-interest lobbyists have been working to kill these protections ever since. Now, the Trump administration and allies on Capitol Hill are waging an assault on America’ clean water and trying to wipe out protections for our streams, wetlands, and clean drinking water.
Protections in constant jeopardy
Clean-water opponents are pushing riders that would repeal the Clean Water Rule with nearly every piece of must-pass legislation in Congress, including the Farm Bill and appropriations bills that are still up for debate. Elsewhere, EPA Acting Administrator and former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler will soon unveil plans to replace existing policy with a rule that would slash protections for wetlands, streams and drinking water sources. If these efforts prevail, it will be a boon for developers, pipeline operators, and oil and gas companies, at the expense of Minnesotans water and health.
We need to raise our voices and let Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith know that the last thing we should do is weaken clean-water protections. Our senators must continue to champion common sense safeguards that will keep Minnesota’s water safe for generations and all Minnesotans. At a time when it feels like access to clean water is a scarce commodity for too many people, eliminating existing rules would set us back a generation and place a risky health burden on vulnerable communities already struggling to get by.
We can’t allow that to happen. Words must be met with action and we’re counting on Sens. Klobuchar and Smith to join us and reject any rollbacks that put Minnesota’s clean water in jeopardy.
Deanna White is the state director for Clean Water Action and Clean Water Fund of Minnesota.
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