Congress to block protections 56% of Illinois streams

For Immediate Release

For more information: Wouter Hammink, wouter@environmentillinois.org, (605) 690-1357

Chicago, IL—56% of streams across the state could remain vulnerable to development and pollution, under a bill expected to win approval today by the U.S. House of Representatives. The waters affected flow into Lake Michigan and provide drinking water for millions of Illinoisans.

The anticipated vote follows the release of a Summer Fun Index fact sheet last week that shows 32 million people enjoyed Illinois waterways this past year.

“Given how much Illinoisans use and enjoy them, we should be doing everything we can to protect our rivers and streams,” said Wouter Hammink, campaign organizer with Environment Illinois. “Yet the polluters and their allies in Congress are doing everything they can to put our waters in jeopardy.”

The bill, HR 5078, would bar the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from restoring protections of the Clean Water Act to more than half of the nation’s rivers and streams, 56% of Illinois’ rivers, left in limbo for nearly a decade after a pair of Supreme Court decisions created a loophole in the law.

In March, EPA proposed a rule to close this loophole and again safeguard under federal law the state’s smaller headwaters and streams along with 20 million acres of wetlands across the country.

A broad coalition of clean water advocates, farmers, mayors, small businesses, and tens of thousands of Illinoisans have heralded the EPA move, but agribusinesses, oil and gas companies, and other polluters affected by the rule have waged a bitter campaign against it.

“Instead of siding with our rivers and the Illinoisans who love to fish, boat and swim in them,” said Hammink, “today Congress is siding with the polluters.”

The attack blocks both the proposed rule and anything that might resemble it, and delays any effort to clarify the scope of the Clean Water Act for up to two years. The White House has threatened to veto the measure, whose prospects are less certain in the Senate.

Thousands of Illinoisans and hundreds of other stakeholders have already written in favor of the rule, which is open for public comment through the fall.

“People from all walks of life want to see their rivers, lakes, and streams safeguarded,” said Hammink. “Kudos to our Senator Dick Durbin for standing up to the polluters and speaking out against attacks like this one. “We hope Senator Mark Kirk will stand up against this dangerous attack on our water. “