Network Update

The Basics of Field Organizing

To stand up to big, powerful polluters and special interests, we need strong grassroots power.  And to successfully build that power, you need to be strategic about how you run your campaign.

This is a training manual written for Clean Water Network members that covers the basic principles of developing a field plan for your campaign or organization to organize people at the grassroots level.

It walks through how to develop a goal and a  strategy, how to talk about your campaign in a way that resonates with and mobilizes your audience, and how to include tactics in your plan that implement your strategy.

One of the most common pitfalls of organizers and advocates is to forget to set a goal and strategy or to set a fuzzy goal and strategy. Secondly organizers and advocates often aren’t thoughtful about how the goal and strategy hangs together with the execution of your plan.

Use this manual to help you ensure that your campaign is strategic and will successfully build the power you need to win.

Drinking Water Curriculum for 8th Graders

Too often, we take safe drinking water for granted.  We don’t think enough about where it comes from or what’s in it, even though clean drinking water is fundamental to life itself.  Educating ourselves and the next generation of water advocates is an important step towards ensuring that our water is safe to drink.

The National Association of Biology Teachers has created a curriculum for Eighth Graders that engages students in developing informed and critical opinions about water quality and water treatment methods.

This curriculum is fairly simple, flexible, and inexpensive, and could be tailored for use in a classroom or a summer camp.  Download here and find this specific curriculum on pages 56-62 of the file.

Muddy Water Watch trains volunteers to spot runoff from construction sites

Is your local stream suffering from too much dirt or silt, which smothers the plants and wildlife in it?  This is a common problem, often because of poorly protected construction sites, farms, or roads.  I want to share a set of materials that some of your peers like Mobile Baykeeper are using to train volunteers to monitor for runoff from construction sites. 

The Muddy Water Watch program trains volunteers to identify when systems are working properly, and how to report problems to contractors and enforcement agencies.  Volunteers can use this field guide to identify and document pollution sources, or this smartphone app to snap a photo and submit a report.

This is a great way to stay engaged with community members and build your volunteers’ affinity for your organization all while actually getting more work done.  Enforcement agencies and your own staff do not have unlimited capacity to do monitoring, so empowering volunteers is a great way to make progress.

Sign On Opportunity: Stormwater Rule

As you might know, the EPA recently proposed a new rulemaking on permitting regulations for small municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4s). Our friends at NRDC have written this comment letter, and you are invited to sign your organization on.

To add your name, reply to me, and cc Johanna Dyer of NRDC at Please feel free to share with other watershed groups as well. Sign-ons must be received by Friday, March 18.

For those of you who’d like to submit your own separate letter, the official comment deadline is March 21, and comments should be submitted through the online docket here:!searchResults;rpp=25;po=0;s=EPA-HQ-OW-2015-0671;fp=true;ns=true

We can’t take clean drinking water for granted: State of Emergency declared in Flint

Flint, Michigan, Water Crisis: Obama Signs Emergency Declaration


President Barack Obama on Saturday declared a state of emergency in Flint, Michigan, where officials allegedly ignored the detriments of a water source that exposed nearly everyone in the city to lead poisoning and other contaminants.

The White House issued a release calling for the Federal Emergency Management Agency “to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety, and to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in Genesee County,” where residents have been warned not to drink unfiltered tap water.

FEMA will deliver water, water filters, water filter cartridges, water test kits, “and other necessary related items” for about three months, the release said.

 Flint, Michigan Water Crisis: Obama Declares State of Emergency 2:17

Related: Email Was ‘Missed Opportunity’ to Save Flint’s Kids From Lead

The emergency declaration follows a request on Friday from Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, who has been under fire for his handling of the crisis.

The situation dates back to April 2014 when Flint switched water sources to save money. The new supply, from the Flint River, was saltier and flowed through corroded pipes, pulling lead into the system.

Snyder thanked Obama for the emergency declaration and for “supporting Flint during this critical situation” in a statement Saturday, but said an additional request for a major disaster declaration was denied.

A major disaster declaration is used after a “natural event” like a tornado earthquake or landslide, or after an explosion, fire or flood regardless of cause, according to FEMA.

“I have pledged to use all state resources possible to help heal Flint, and these additional resources will greatly assist in efforts underway to ensure every resident has access to clean water resources,” Snyder said in the statement.

Residents began complaining about the taste, smell and appearance of the water, and recent tests have shown elevated lead levels in the blood of some local children.

 From Jan. 11, 2016: Michigan Governor Apologizes for Flint Water Crisis 0:52

Also Friday, Michigan’s top prosecutor, Attorney General Bill Schuette,announced an investigation to determine if any laws were broken in the months following the switch in water source.

Federal prosecutors are already probing the debacle and the state’s health department has just started investigating whether an increase of Legionnaires’ disease cases — seven of them fatal — could be linked to the water.

“The governor long ago knew about the lead in Flint’s water,” presidential candidate Bernie Sanders alleged Saturday, calling for Snyder to resign.

“Because of the conduct by Gov. Snyder’s administration, families will suffer from lead poisoning for the rest of their lives,” Sanders said in a statement. “The people of Flint deserve more than an apology.”

CRA in the House of Representatives

The week of January 11, the House of Representatives is voting on S.J. Res. 22, a “Resolution of Disapproval” under the Congressional Review Act attacking the Clean Water Rule, the Obama administration’s landmark initiative to restore safeguards against pollution and destruction for lakes, streams, wetlands and other water bodies.

Fortunately, President Obama is certain to issue a veto, and opponents of the Clean Water Rule don’t have enough votes to override the veto.

National organizations have put together this fact sheet that explains why the CRA is bad for our nation’s waterways, that you are welcomed to use.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, Clean Water Network!

If you’re anything like me, you spent the beginning of this week emerging from the holiday lull.  You’ve re-acclimated yourself to scheduling meetings and returning voicemails, and are now ready to take on the new year.  While I’m excited to be jumping full-speed into 2016, I also spent some time in the last couple of days reflecting on the best moments for Clean Water Network in 2015.

Here’s my countdown of our top five big hits of 2015.


5) In an event arranged by Clean Water Network, member group Blue Water Baltimore took Senator Cardin on a tour of their local projects to green the neighborhoods of Baltimore and forge strong community partnerships, while protecting Maryland’s waterways from urban runoff. Senator Cardin learned more about the challenges facing Baltimore’s waters and the people who live around them from the local groups who know the community best, and Blue Water Baltimore got the opportunity to build a stronger relationship with one of their most important elected officials.

4) The Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership held a community forum with EPA Regional Administrator Shawn Garvin to educate citizens about the benefits of the Clean Water Rule.  Attendees got the opportunity to learn from the Regional Administrator himself about the new policy to protect streams and wetlands, and ask local experts about the impacts to their community.  TTF was funded to hold this forum through a re-grant through the Clean Water Network.  They were eligible to receive this re-grant as a dues-paying member of the Network.

3) With a similar re-grant through the Clean Water Network, Friends of the Wissahickon educated the community about the EPA’s new Clean Water Rule and mobilized their members to demonstrate their support for clean water during their annual ice-cream social event.  From families with young kids to retirees looking to volunteer, the event turned out folks from all walks of life who care about Wissahickon Creek.  Senator Bob Casey’s district staff even came out to the event, and asked about opportunities to work together in the future.

2) This fall Clean Water Network held our first Southeast Regional Meeting, with folks from Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida.  We discussed issues like water allocation, flow, and pipelines that affect states all across the region.  Folks had the opportunity to ask one another questions about their experiences, share their own frustrations and challenges, discuss successful messages on those issues, and formulate a strategy around opportunities for action.  The groups made a plan to jump on an opportunity to ask EPA to strengthen their work to regulate instream flow through water quality standards, and plan to meet with EPA Region 4 early in 2016.

1) Defending the Clean Water Rule has been a top priority for Clean Water Network and many of our member groups for quite some time.  We’ve sent in public comments, heard briefings, made phone calls to members of Congress and more–all to ensure that the Clean Water Rule makes it to the finish line and protects our nation’s waters. Fortunately, the Rule has now withstood every attack that polluters could muster in Congress- the Barrasso bill, the CRA measure, and an attempted budget rider. And while the rule was also attacked in the courts, experts are confident that the rule is legally sound and will ultimately be upheld.

Green Infrastructure Resources

Clean Water Network members across the nation are dealing with stormwater runoff in their communities, and are looking for ways to use green infrastructure solutions to protect their waterways from pollutants.

Our friends at American Rivers have put together this guide for community and watershed advocates to improve municipal stormwater permits and protect water quality.  

permitting green infrastructure


Download Permitting Green Infrastructure 

Like many sources of water pollution, stormwater generally falls under the prohibitions and requirements created by the federal Clean Water Act.  For over a dozen years, these  requirement have found their way into permits for municipal storm sewer systems.  Unfortunately, these permits have not done enough to stem the flow of stormwater pollutants into our urban waters.  Truly protecting, and restoring, our waters will require a different approach to stormwater permits, one that emphasizes building homes, businesses, and communities in ways that reduce the amount of stormwater running off of parking lots, streets and rooftops.

This guide is intended to be a resource for community and watershed advocates that provides clear examples of new stormwater permits that encourage or require “low impact development” or “green infrastructure.”  These permits represent an emerging new generation of regulatory approaches and reflect the emerging expertise of water advocacy organizations, stormwater professionals and permitting agencies.  Our goal is to provide information about new trends in stormwater permitting and examples of permits that demonstrate leadership toward standards that will build green infrastructure and compliance with water quality standards.  With this tool, we hope to inform and inspire continued progress toward stormwater permitting and management that protects our rivers and other shared waters, invigorates healthy communities, and provides cost-effective solutions for stormwater managers.

The guide is organized as a matrix that combines model permit language along with excerpts from comment letters that have helped to drive this evolution.  The concerns raised by watershed advocates, and the support they often provide to state permit agencies, frequently have been instrumental in shaping better stormwater permits. We hope that providing examples of the expertise shown by both communities that we can inform a broader movement toward better control of urban stormwater.

Latest on the Clean Water Rule Litigation

What’s the latest on the Clean Water Rule litigation?  Jon Devine of NRDC is helping us keep it all straight. Read his update below.
As a starting point, there is a lack of agreement amongst the parties and some uncertainty about whether challenges to the rule are supposed to be filed in the first level of the federal courts (“district courts”) or the intermediate level (“circuit courts”).  Given that, virtually all of the parties challenging the rule have filed both in the circuits and the district courts.  The result is that there have been 16 circuit court challenges filed in 8 courts, and 15 district court challenges filed in 13 courts.

So, what has happened?

All of the challenges filed in circuit courts were consolidated  — as federal rules require — in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit (which was selected by lottery).  The district court cases followed varied paths.  Some were put on hold while the government asked a special federal body — the Panel on Multidistrict Litigation — to transfer and consolidate the cases in a single location.  Others were dismissed or requests for stays of the rule were rejected on the ground that the 6th Circuit is the only court with authority to hear the cases.  One — in the District of North Dakota — granted a stay of the rule until the case can be fully heard; that stay applied to the 13 states that sued in that court.

Since the North Dakota stay, a few major things happened.  First, the states that filed in the Southern District of Georgia have appealed that court’s decision that it lacks authority to decide the case; that case is pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.  Second, after challengers sought a stay from the Sixth Circuit and also asked that court to dismiss the cases because they believe the challenges belong in the district courts, the Sixth Circuit ordered briefing on both a stay and its authority to hear the case, in that order.  Unfortunately, the 6th Circuit decided a week and a half ago that a stay is appropriate, at least until it resolves the question of which court should hear the cases.  Third, the Multidistrict Litigation Panel rejected the government’s request to transfer and consolidate all the district court cases, leaving those to proceed forward.

What comes next?

This is very difficult to predict.  Some parties may challenge the 6th Circuit’s stay as inappropriate, especially prior to ruling on its authority to hear the case in the first instance.  The Sixth Circuit will have a hearing about the authority question on December 8th, after which it could decide it has the authority to hear the case and — barring some other challenge — will presumably keep the stay of the rule in place until it ultimately decides the actual legal issues in the case.  If the 6th Cir. decides it’s the right place, I expect at least some of the district courts will either indefinitely postpone their cases or dismiss them, but some probably won’t.  The court in North Dakota, for instance, has already determined that the district courts should have these cases, so I expect that case will continue on.  Also, the Eleventh Circuit could decide that the Georgia case was wrongly decided and that the district courts have authority to hear the case, in which case at least that Georgia litigation will continue.  If the Sixth and Eleventh Circuits disagree about which level of the courts is the right one for these challenges, I would not be surprised if the government or some challengers, or both, ask the Supreme Court to resolve the question.

At least while the stay is in place, the agencies can’t enforce the rule, so jurisdictional determinations and enforcement cases for the time being will need to be based on the pre-rule guidelines from the Bush administration.  However, I can’t think of any reason that the agencies couldn’t continue to prepare for the rule to be enforced if/when it is upheld in court.

What’s the big picture?

In light of all of this, the major takeaway — in my opinion — is that we’re a long way from getting to final resolution of the legal issues in the cases.  For now, we’ve had a lot of preliminary wranglings, but only a couple of them have considered the core legal issues, and even those were tangential and based on a less-than-complete record and less-than-robust briefing.  This is a long way from lost.  When the smoke clears, I remain confident that the rule’s central provisions — those based on the enormous scientific record and grounded in the Supreme Court’s decisions — will be upheld.

Futhermore, EPA officials have also expressed their confidence in the science and legal foundation of the rule, and are working with the Corps in the interim to make sure the connectivity science and the transparency/jd/NJD posting improvements agreed to will move forward.  This means we should be able to to better document jds/njds under the pre-rule scenario and hopefully hold the Corps and EPA more accountable for better determinations.