Clean water, thriving city: What can be done for Chicago’s waterways?

From Environment Illinois

CHICAGO – Commissioner Debra Shore and other community leaders today touted the benefits of the Clean Water Rule, the Obama administration measure that restores protections for streams that feed Lake Michigan and help provide drinking water for almost 1.7 million Illinoisans.

“The Obama Administration has taken actions to ensure that our water remains safe,” said Congresswoman Jan Schakowksy.  “That includes the clarification of the definition of “Waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act, which will make sure that bodies of water that connect to lakes, rivers, streams, and other sources of drinking or recreational water are protected against harmful pollutants.”

Finalized in May, the Clean Water Rule has support from more than 800,000 Americans, including 33,000 Illinoisans, and is backed by more than 1,200 peer-reviewed scientific studies. But it has drawn the ire of a wide variety of powerful polluting interests, including big developers, agribusinesses, and coal-giant Murray Energy, who have vowed to fight in the measure in Congress and in the courts.

Despite opposition from Senator Dick Durbin, earlier this month the U.S. Senate approved a bill by Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) to repeal the Clean Water Rule.

“Contrary to the scare-mongering purveyed by some parties, the new regulations do not increase federal jurisdiction over water bodies; they simply clarify the scope of the jurisdiction so that homes can be protected from flooding and clean water can be more effectively protected for everyone,” said Albert Ettinger, an environmental lawyer who has worked for nearly two decades on water quality and the Clean Water Act.

The Clean Water Rule returns safeguards under the Clean Water Act to 2 million miles of streams and millions of acres of wetlands, including more than half of Illinois’ streams, left vulnerable to pollution and development following a pair of Supreme Court decisions in the 2000’s.

“But with the strong backing of students, businesses, elected officials such as Senator Durbin, the president, and Illinoisans, the Clean Water Rule will survive, and our rivers, lakes, streams and wetlands will get the protections they deserve,” said Brittany King, campaign organizer for Environment Illinois.

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