RE: 70+ groups oppose attacks on clean water safeguards in spending legislation for FY18

January 24, 2018

January 24, 2018

Dear Senator,

Our organizations, along with our millions of members and supporters, urge you to oppose the inclusions of damaging ideological riders in any final spending legislation for Fiscal Year 2018, including those that attack much needed clean water protections.

In particular, three damaging policy riders that assault important water safeguards were included in the Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies appropriations bill that the Senate Appropriations Committee released in November of last year. These include:

  • Section 424 creates confusion about exemptions allowing polluters to more easily dump dredged or fill material into our waterways, destroying fish and wildlife habitat and flood storage capacity and degrading water quality downstream.
  • Section 433 would resurrect the Yazoo Backwater Pumps Project in Mississippi, essentially reversing the Bush administration's “veto” of this project and would lead to the unacceptable damage of 200,000 acres of ecologically-rich wetlands.
  • Section 434 would set a damaging precedent by exempting the Trump administration’s repeal of the Clean Water Rule from many requirements under the law.

Section 434 is especially radical. This provision aims to shield the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers’ repeal of the Clean Water Rule, which provides protections for the sources of drinking water of 117 million people, from public and legal scrutiny. This rider attempts to cut out the public’s ability to have a voice in the actions of their government and prevent court challenges to the Trump administration’s plan to allow polluters to dump into our waterways. If enacted, this rider would encourage the agencies to ignore Clean Water Act and Administrative Procedure Act requirements that they meaningfully consider public comment. It could also interfere with the court's’ ability to review if the repeal is “arbitrary or capricious.”

It is hard to imagine a more undemocratic provision, especially when you consider that the Clean Water Rule was adopted after years of scientific research and public engagement. The water bodies at the center of the Clean Water Rule serve critical functions, including protecting the drinking water sources of one in three Americans, protecting essential fish and wildlife habitat necessary for a robust outdoor recreation economy, and providing critical ecosystem services such as water storage that can aid in protecting communities from flooding and drought.

Additionally, the rider would create significant uncertainty around implementation, compliance, and enforcement of the Clean Water Act itself. It would allow the EPA and Army Corps to withdraw safeguards for waterways that clearly deserve to be protected from pollution, such as tributary streams, and leave many of them in a state of limbo. This would put our precious water bodies at risk of uncontrolled pollution, jeopardizing the clean water our children and grandchildren drink from and swim and play in.

Lastly, Section 434 could allow for numerous activities outside of the law from our governmental agencies by exempting the repeal from “any provision of statute or regulation that establishes a requirement for such withdrawal.” Taken at face value, this sweeping language could even allow the agencies to violate anti-corruption laws while withdrawing the Clean Water Rule.

Ultimately, this rider shows that the Trump administration’s allies in Congress recognize that the administration’s scheme to get rid of the Clean Water Rule and the drinking water protections it provides are unlawful.

In conclusion, we urge you to reject all policy riders attacking safeguards for the streams, wetlands, lakes, rivers, and other waters that our families, communities, and economy depend on, as well as broader attacks on our environment and public health. We want to reiterate our disappointment at seeing such politically-motivated attacks on important clean water safeguards in the underlying appropriations bill and urge you to remove these and all damaging, ideological provisions from any final spending legislation for Fiscal Year 2018. 

Thank you for your consideration.


National Groups

Alaska Wilderness League

Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments

American Rivers

American Sustainable Business Council

Clean Water Action


Elders Climate Action

Environment America

Environmental Protection Network


Hip Hop Caucus

National Latino Farmers & Ranchers Trade Association

National Medical Association

National Parks Conservation Association

Natural Resources Defense Council

Nature Abounds

Ocean River Institute

Physicians for Social Responsibility

River Network

Save EPA

Sierra Club

Waterkeeper Alliance




Regional Groups

Columbia Riverkeeper, Washington state and Oregon

Environmental Law & Policy Center, Midwest

The Wetlands Initiative, Midwest

Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, Great Lakes

Friends of the St. Joe River Association, Southwest Michigan and Northern Indiana

Gulf Restoration Network, Gulf Region

Lower Mississippi River Foundation, Lower Mississippi Region

Mississippi River Collaborative, states bordering Mississippi River

Southern Environmental Law Center, Southeastern US

Winyah Rivers Foundation, North and South Carolina

Citizens Campaign for the Environment, New York State and Connecticut


Local & State-based Groups

Alabama Rivers Alliance, Alabama

Cahaba River Society, Birmingham, Alabama

Arkansas Wildlife Federation, Arkansas

Endangered Habitats League, Southern California

San Juan Citizens Alliance, Colorado

Tampa Bay Waterkeeper, Tampa Bay, Florida

Center for a Sustainable Coast, Saint Simons Island, Georgia

Bluestem Communications - Mississippi River Network, Chicago, Illinois

Committee on the Middle Fork Vermilion River, Urbana, Illinois

Prairie Rivers Network, Illinois

Hoosier Environmental Council, Indiana

Indiana Wildlife Federation, Indianapolis, Indiana

Kentucky Waterways Alliance, Louisville, Kentucky

Friends of Casco Bay, South Portland, Maine

Maryland Chapter Latino Farmers & Ranchers Trade Association, Maryland

Dwight Lydell Chapter of the Izaak Walton League of America, Michigan

Minnesota Environnental Partnership, St. Paul, Minnesota

Pearl Riverkeeper, Madison, Mississippi

Great Rivers Environmental Law Center, St. Louis, Missouri

Great Rivers Habitat Alliance, St. Louis, Missouri

Izaak Walton League Central OH, Central Ohio

Pennsylvania Council of Churches, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

PennFuture, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

Nebraska Chapter Sierra Club, Nebraska

Save The River / Upper St. Lawrence Waterkeeper, Clayton, New York

Oregon Environmental Council, Oregon

PennEnvironment, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Harpeth Conservancy, Brentwood, Tennessee

Tennessee Clean Water Network, Tennessee

Utah Rivers Council, Salt Lake City, Utah

Virginia Conservation network, Richmond, Virginia

Puget Soundkeeper Alliance, Seattle, Washington

OVEC-Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Huntington, West Virginia

A.D. Sutherland Chapter-Izaak Walton League of America, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin

Superior Rivers Watershed Association, Ashland, Wisconsin

Wisconsin Division of the Izaak Walton League of America, Amherst Junction, Wisconsin

Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, Madison, Wisconsin

Milwaukee Riverkeeper, Milwaukee, Wisconsin