U.S. EPA to Rollback Critical Protections to Keep Toxic Metals Out of Drinking Water Sources

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Washington, DC – Late on August 14th, 2017 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced it will consider weakening national safeguards which required coal-burning power plants to limit the amount of arsenic, lead, mercury, selenium and other pollutants they dump in rivers, lakes, and bays. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt put the pollution standards, finalized in 2015, on hold in earlier this year in response to requests from industry groups. Today’s announcement is part of a filing in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which is hearing legal challenges to the 2015 power plant wastewater rule. Clean Water Action, along with Environmental Integrity Project, Sierra Club, and Waterkeeper Alliance are being represented by Earthjustice in this case.

“It is unconscionable and absolutely absurd for Scott Pruitt to try to make it easier for coal plants to dump deadly toxics and other harmful chemicals directly into our rivers and lakes, including those used for drinking water, fishing, and swimming,” said Clean Water Action National Water Programs Director Jennifer Peters. “This reckless action will put more people at risk of exposure to cancer-causing chemicals or heavy metals like lead or mercury that can cause brain damage in children. Affordable technologies exist today that can eliminate nearly all of this pollution, but Pruitt is prioritizing profits for coal plants instead of protecting the public from known health hazards.”  

Clean Water Action, along with Environmental Integrity Project, Sierra Club, and Waterkeeper Alliance, are also being represented by Earthjustice in a separate lawsuit challenging Scott Pruitt’s April 2017 decision to indefinitely postpone the deadlines for power plants to comply with the public health protections required by the 2015 rule. This case was filed in federal district court in the District of Columbia and asks the court to find that EPA does not have legal authority to halt these protections, did not give public notice before postponing, and prioritized interests of industry without considering the benefits of protecting public health and the environment.


Since our founding during the campaign to pass the landmark Clean Water Act in 1972, Clean Water Action has worked to win strong health and environmental protections by bringing issue expertise, solution-oriented thinking and people power to the table. We will protect clean water in the face of attacks from a polluter friendly Administration and Congress

Michael Kelly