I am a Third Order Franciscan,
I am the Justice Peace and Care of Creation Animator for HTR Region,
I have eight kids and ten grandchildren I care for very mush.
Unlike most of you folks, I am old enough to remember 1969 when the Cuyahoga River caught on fire. Not because the Browns or Indians were “on fire” that year, but because of pollution. Now that we have had our chuckle, it is time to be serious (and a little technical).
The Cuyahoga River Fire of ’69, along with other land and water pollution nationwide, inspired Congress to create revolutionary environmental regulations that are still around today. One of these laws is the Clean Water Act. Today in Ohio, almost half of our 11.7 million residents get their drinking water from sources that rely on small streams that have been protected under a specific part of Clean Water Act called the Clean Water Rule. That equals close to 7,000 miles of streams that feed into Ohio’s drinking water sources, and thousands of acres of wetlands* in Ohio that filter pollution and replenish our groundwater – all protected by the Clean Water Rule. That is, until recently.
The Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Army have finalized a new rule that rescinds the Clean Water Rule and revises the definition of “waters of the United States.” This rollback aligns with the Executive Order signed on February 28, 2017, “Restoring the Rule of Law, Federalism, and Economic Growth by Reviewing the ‘Waters of the United States’ Rule.”
Congress enacted the Clean Water Act in 1972 “to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters.” §1251(a). One of the Act’s means of achieving that objective is §1311(a), which prohibited “the discharge of any pollutant by any person,” except in express circumstances. After the passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972, Republican Senator Howard Baker from Tennessee asserted that the law was “far and away the most significant and promising piece of environmental legislation ever enacted by the Congress.” That was then, this is now.
The Clean Water Rule had the overwhelming support of 80 percent of Americans. Yet, the Administration undid all this good work and put one of humanity’s most basic human needs at risk.
“I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink…” (Matthew 25:35) What do you suppose Matthew had in mind? Certainly not what our major polluters have in mind for Americans. Corporate profits cannot be the driving force of our society; our driving force should be maintaining healthy relationships with one another and with God’s creation. Just as God’s creation sustains our lives, we have a duty to sustain and care for God’s gift of creation. This includes caring for all aspects of earth, including the waterways.
Without the Clean Water Rule, our communities are at risk. Marginalized and vulnerable populations are often the most at risk when it comes to pollution, and we know that those are the very people we are called to serve (Matthew 25:40). This rule made sure that drinking water sources will be safe for my children and grandchildren as well as yours. We have a moral obligation to take care of the whole of creation for the sake of future generations. Clean water is a basic human necessity, a gift provided by God and our moral obligation to protect.
I feel it is my duty to stand up now and urge the EPA and the Department of the Army to reverse the removal of the Clean Water Rule. I call on all elected officials of Ohio to also take a stand and do all that they can to undo this calamity. I also urge you, dear reader, to call or e-mail your State and National Representatives and let them know how you feel.
In an era where so much is contentious, the protection of God’s most fundamental gift of water should be a given. Let us do as we are obligated and protect God’s creation and clean water for the generations to come.
Peace and all good,
Jim Myres, OFS
*Farmers may have a valid concern about occasional wetlands and suspected government overreach.