In partnership with The Alliance for Appalachia SOCM members have lobbied long and hard for passage of the Clean Water Protection Act (CWPA). SOCM members, along with fellow concerned citizens from Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina and all across the country have brought the fight for clean water back to the halls of Congress.
Congress enacted the Clean Water Act to “restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the nation’s waters.” The Clean Water Act prohibited dumping material into our waterways for waste disposal purposes. In 2002, a Bush administration rule change defined mine waste as “fill material,” allowing coal companies to dump MILLIONS of tons of mine waste into nearby streams. Across Appalachia, more than 1,200 MILES of streams have been destroyed by mountaintop removal and are now buried in mine waste.
The Clean Water Protection Act would reestablish the Clean Water Act’s original intent to protect our waterways and prohibit industry from polluting and burying our nation’s streams. Without the Clean Water Protection Act, Appalachian coalfield residents face catastrophic flooding and polluted or disappearing drinking water.
SOCM and other groups in the Alliance for Appalachia are experiencing a new wave of optimism about the prospects of passing the Clean Water Protection Act within the next year or two. About 120 people from Alliance groups including SOCM as well as allies from around the country (19 states were represented) participated in a Week in Washington lobbying trip in March. The Clean Water Protection Act (HR 1310) has over 150 House co-sponsors with new co-sponsors signing on regularly. A new breakthrough occurred in spring of 2009 when Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander and Maryland Senator Benjamin Carden introduced a companion bill in the U.S. Senate called the Appalachia Restoration Act. The Senate bill contains provisions of the Clean Water Protection Act specifically tailored to Appalachia and the mountaintop removal process.