Comment now on new federal regulations to require up-to-date water pollution permits

Paula Goodman Maccabee  Advocacy Director and Counsel for WaterLegacy

Paula Goodman Maccabee 

Advocacy Director and Counsel for WaterLegacy

Have you been infuriated by your State’s failure to limit toxic pollution from mines and other industries? If so, here’s how you can have your say and stand up for environmental justice.

Current federal regulations have a huge loophole right in the middle of the Clean Water Act permitting program. If a polluter reapplies for a new permit 180 days before the old permit expires, the old permit can stay in effect indefinitely without any public review even if the expired permit is weak, its science out-of-date, and its requirements for water quality treatment nonexistent.

In Minnesota, the political power of the mining industry has turned this permit loophole into a nightmare. In Minnesota, many permits allowing discharge from mines pits and tailings dumps have been left untouched for years, some even for decades. The poster child for the need to change federal rules is U.S. Steel’s Minntac tailings waste permit. This expired permit hasn’t been updated in more than 30 years, even though sulfate seepage from tailings wastewater has violated Minnesota water quality standards and has devastated downstream wild rice beds in tribal territories.

Across the United States, old expired permits, like Minnesota’s Minntac mine permit, don’t reflect current scientific knowledge about the threats of pollutants to aquatic life, wildlife and human health. Nor do they require modern water quality treatment to control pollution.

In Minnesota, the failure of our State agencies to control mining pollution got so bad that in July 2015, WaterLegacy filed a petition with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requesting withdrawal of the State’s authority under the Clean Water Act to control water pollution. Having seen our State violate an agreement with EPA to issue backlogged permits, EPA has launched an investigation to determine whether Minnesota should be stripped ofauthority to regulate water pollution. We shouldn’t need this type of Clean Water Act crisis to get water pollution permits updated.

For the first time in history, the EPA has proposed new rules that would allow the EPA to step in and issue a permit that protects water quality when polluters and States allow expired permits to languish. Your support for this new rule will make the Clean Water Act work more effectively to control toxic pollution in your State and across the United States.

Take Action today to protect clean water and hold States accountable for controlling industrial pollution. Submit your comments through WaterLegacy’s website or write your own comment letter. The deadline for your comments is July 18, 2016.