Clean water repeal moves forward

The public can now weigh in on the Trump administration’s regulatory rollback.

 

This article was originally published by The Guardian and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

The Environmental Protection Agency is poised to dismantle the federal clean water rule, which protects waterways that provide drinking water for about a third of the U.S. population.

The EPA, with the U.S. army, has proposed scrapping the rule in order to conduct a “substantive re-evaluation” of which rivers, streams, wetlands and other bodies of water should be protected by the federal government.

“We are taking significant action to return power to the states and provide regulatory certainty to our nation’s farmers and businesses,” said Scott Pruitt, administrator of the EPA. Pruitt said his agency would swiftly redefine clean water regulations in a “thoughtful, transparent and collaborative” way with other agencies and the public.

Acidic water, oil and acid-clay sludge in a five-acre pond that was later cleaned up by the Environmental Protection Agency to prevent contamination of the Great Salt Lake and a wildlife refuge near Weber, Utah. Historical pollution prompted the implementation of regulations like the Clean Water Act.

Green groups, however, said the move pandered to fossil fuel and farming interests and was part of an agenda to weaken clean water protections.

“Once again, the Trump administration has agreed to do the bidding of the worst polluters in our country, and once again it’s putting the health of American families and communities at risk,” said Michael Brune, executive director of Sierra Club. “We will fight this and every other attempt by polluters and the Trump administration to destroy our water resources.”

The planned rollback follows an executive order penned by President Donald Trump in February which called for a review of the regulation, also known as the waters of the United States rule, that was introduced by the Obama administration in 2015.

The rule was meant to end years of confusion over which waterways were federally protected from pollution, with the clean water rule simply designating “navigable” waters for safeguards. The Obama administration widened this definition to include the drinking water of about 117 million Americans.

But while the rule was applauded by environmentalists for improving drinking water protections and aiding wildlife that relies on wetlands, it was attacked by some farmers and golf course operators who claimed it hindered their ability to manage their land.

Trump has called the rule “one of the worst examples of federal regulation” and a “massive power grab.” Signing his order, the president said thousands of jobs were at risk because “the EPA decided that navigable waters can mean nearly every puddle or every ditch on a farmer’s land or anyplace else that they decide.”

While “puddles” aren’t mentioned in the rule, the EPA does have greater latitude to regulate under it. However, there is no evidence that the regulation could result in the loss of thousands of jobs.

The National Mining Association, another opponent of the rule and representative of an industry relentlessly backed by Trump, welcomed its impending demise. “This sets in motion a welcome correction to a deeply problematic regulation that ignored the careful balance that Congress struck between federal and state water regulation and constitutional limits on federal authority,” said Hal Quinn, NMA president and chief executive.

The clean water rule reversal, which will now go through a period of public comment ahead of a final decision, is the latest in a string of regulations to be paused or scrapped by the Trump administration.

In recent months, the EPA has wound back rules curbing vehicle emissions, toxic waste from power plants and methane leaks from oil and gas drilling operations.

High Country News Classifieds
  • WATER PROJECT MANAGER, UPPER SAN PEDRO (ARIZONA)
    Based in Tucson or Sierra Vista, AZ., the Upper San Pedro Project Manager develops, manages, and advances freshwater conservation programs, plans, and methods focusing on...
  • CAMPAIGNS DIRECTOR
    Southeast Alaska Conservation is hiring. Visit https://www.seacc.org/about/hiring for info. 907-586-6942 [email protected]
  • FINANCE & GRANTS MANAGER
    The Blackfoot Challenge, located in Ovando, MT, seeks a self-motivated, detail-oriented individual to conduct bookkeeping, financial analysis and reporting, and grant oversight and management. Competitive...
  • WADE LAKE CABINS, CAMERON MT
    A once in a lifetime opportunity to live and run a business on the shore of one of the most beautiful lakes in SW Montana....
  • CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, BOOKS, CULTURE AND COMMENTARY (PART-TIME, CONTRACT)
    High Country News is seeking a Contributing Editor for Books, Culture and Commentary to assign and edit inquisitive, inspiring, and thought-provoking content for HCN in...
  • STATEWIDE COMMUNITY ORGANIZER
    ABOUT US Better Wyoming is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization that educates, organizes, and mobilizes Wyoming residents on behalf of statewide change. Learn more at...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    TwispWorks is a 501(c)3 that promotes economic and cultural vitality in the mountainous Methow Valley, the eastern gateway to North Cascades National Park in Washington...
  • CLEAN ENERGY ADVOCATE OR DIRECTOR
    Location: Helena, Montana Type: Permanent, full time after 1-year probationary period. Reports to: Director of Policy and Legislative Affairs. Travel: Some overnight travel, both in-state...
  • PROFESSIONAL GIS SERVICES
    Custom Geospatial Solutions is available for all of your GIS needs. Affordable, flexible and accurate data visualization and analysis for any sized project.
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    Restore Hetch Hetchy, a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization, seeks experienced development professional to identify and engage individuals and institutions who are inspired to help underwrite...
  • PUBLIC LANDS COUNSEL
    The successful candidate will be the organization's lead counsel on public lands issues, including reviewing federal administrative actions and proposed policy and helping to shape...
  • HUMAN RESOURCES DIRECTOR
    Solar Energy International (SEI) is a 501(c)3 non-profit education organization with a mission to provide industry-leading technical training and expertise in renewable energy to empower...
  • TRAINING MANAGER
    This is a full-time position based out of our Paonia office. This position is responsible for organizing all of Solar Energy International's renewable energy trainings....
  • RANCH HAND & HOUSING OPPORTUNITY IN DURANGO, CO
    Remodeled home with the opportunity to work off part of rent. Renter(s) must be available to help with lifting, irrigation & outdoor chores, 15-40 hrs...
  • INDIGENOUS LANDSCAPES AND COMMUNITIES DIRECTOR
    YOUR POSITION WITH TNC The Indigenous Landscapes & Communities Program is part of the North America Region's Conservation Collaboration team. The Conservation Collaboration team works...
  • GUIDE TO WESTERN NATIONAL MONUMENTS
    NEW BOOK showcases 70 national monuments across the western United States. Use "Guide10" for 10% off at cmcpress.org
  • RARE CHIRICAHUA RIPARIAN LAND FOR SALE
    40 acres: 110 miles from Tucson: native trees, grasses: birder's heaven::dark sky/ borders state lease & National forest/5100 ft/13-16 per annum rain
  • ENVIRONMENTAL GEOPHYSICS
    "More Data, Less Digging" Find groundwater and reduce excavation costs!
  • LUNATEC ODOR-FREE DISHCLOTHS
    are a must try. They stay odor-free, dry fast, are durable and don't require machine washing. Try today.
  • 10 ACRES OF NEW MEXICO HIGH DESERT
    10 Acres of undeveloped high desert land in central NM, about 45 minutes from downtown Albuquerque. Mixed cedar and piñon pine cover. Some dirt roadways...