Trump Administration Rolls Back Obama-Era Water Protection Measure
The Trump administration announced the repeal on Thursday of a 2015 rule designed to shield U.S. bodies of water from pollution and provide safe drinking water.
The clean water measure is one of many environmental regulations the Trump administration has targeted. The administration has worked to reduce and eliminate restrictions on everything from automobile emissions and toxic emissions to oil and gas drilling in the last two and a half years.
The 2015 measure, referred to as the Waters of the United States rule, helped to clarify which U.S. waters fell under federal protection, after contradictory Supreme Court rulings caused confusion. It aimed to reduce pollution in 60% of U.S. bodies of water, and to protect drinking water for one-third of the country.
The rule was heavily protested by farmers, real estate developers, oil and gas producers and golf course owners, who argued the restrictions hurt economic development and encroached on property rights.
Rolling back the water rule had been one of President Trump’s campaign pledges, and soon after taking office, he ordered the EPA and the Army to revisit the 2015 ruling and narrow the current definition of “waters of the United States.”
Environmental Protection Agency chief Andrew Wheeler announced the repeal from the headquarters of the National Association of Manufacturers, a trade group that had advocated for a rollback of the measure.
“This action officially ends an egregious power grab and sets the stage for a new rule that will provide much-needed regulatory certainty for farmers, home builders and property owners nationwide,” wrote Wheeler and R.D. James, assistant secretary of the Army for civil works, in a Des Moines Register column.
Environmental groups have raised concerns about a potential decrease in safe drinking water and destruction of wetlands, and some have already promised to take legal action.
“The Clean Water Rule represented solid science and smart public policy,” said Jon Devine, Natural Resources Defense Council director of federal water policy, in a statement. “Where it has been enforced, it has protected important waterways and wetlands, providing certainty to all stakeholders.”
Under the 2015 measure’s definition, large bodies of water as well as upstream tributaries, wetlands, ponds, lakes and streams were federally protected. The rule also required farmers and landowners near protected waterways to receive permits before releasing pollutants that might run into waterways, and restricted farmers from planting certain crops and conducting specific types of plowing.
A new definition of “waters of the United States” would likely continue to protect large bodies of water, connected rivers and adjacent wetlands. But it is probable that the new ruling would erase protections for temporary streams that only surface after rainfall and wetlands that are not adjacent or connected to major bodies of water.
WHAT THE LEFT ARE SAYING: Delaware Senator Tom Carper: “Repealing the Clean Water Rule is a rebuke of sound science and overwhelming public opinion, and it will put at risk the waterbodies that feed into the drinking water of nearly 1 in 3 Americans.”
Repealing the Clean Water Rule is a rebuke of sound science and overwhelming public opinion, and it will put at risk the waterbodies that feed into the drinking water of nearly 1 in 3 Americans pic.twitter.com/2crTSIfv7y
Repealing the Clean Water Rule is a rebuke of sound science and overwhelming public opinion, and it will put at risk the waterbodies that feed into the drinking water of nearly 1 in 3 Americans pic.twitter.com/2crTSIfv7y— Senator Tom Carper (@SenatorCarper) September 12, 2019
WHAT THE RIGHT ARE SAYING: Iowa Senator Joni Ernst: “The 2015 WOTUS rule was an egregious power grab that gave the fed gov’t authority to regulate 97% of Iowa’s land. I’m thrilled to see the Trump Administration take decisive action that will remove this threat to Iowa’s farmers, manufacturers, & small biz.”