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
  • STAFF ATTORNEY
    STAFF ATTORNEY POSITION OPENING www.westernlaw.org/about-us/clinic-interns-careers The Western Environmental Law Center (WELC) is a nonprofit public interest environmental law firm with a 25-year legacy of success...
  • PLANNING & BUILDING DIRECTOR
    Searching for candidates with a Bachelor's Degree in Planning, Community Development, or a related field with 7 years' experience in land use planning forums, including...
  • LAND CONSERVATION DIRECTOR
    Manage, develop and implement all stewardship and land management plans and activities on both private and public lands. Guide and direct comprehensive planning efforts, provide...
  • NEWS DIRECTOR
    Based in the state capitol, Boise State Public Radio is the premier NPR affiliate in Idaho. With 18 transmitters and translators, it reaches 2/3rds of...
  • INTERNET-BASED BUSINESS FOR SALE
    Dream of owning your own business, being your own boss, working from home ... this is the one.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR FOR MOJAVE DESERT LAND TRUST
    Organization Background: The Mojave Desert Land Trust (MDLT) is a non-profit 501(3)(c) organization, founded in 2006. Our mission is to protect the ecosystems of the...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    If you are deeply committed to public service and would like to become part of our high performing, passionate and diverse team, NCAT is looking...
  • TRIPLEX .8 ACRE KANAB, UT
    Create a base in the center of Southern Utah's Grand Circle of National Parks. Multiple residential property with three established rental units and zoning latitude...
  • FORGE & FAB SHOP
    with home on one beautiful acre in Pocatello, ID. Blackrock Forge - retiring after 43 years! Fully equipped 5,500 sf shop including office, gallery and...
  • SMALL FARM AT THE BASE OF MOUNT SHASTA
    Certified organic fruit/berry/veggie/flower farm. Home, barns, garage, separate apt, more. Just under 2 ac, edge of town. Famously pure air and water. Skiing, mountaineering, bike,...
  • FOREST STEWARDSHIP PROJECT DIRECTOR
    Become a force for nature and a healthy planet by joining the Arizona Chapter as Forest Stewardship Project Director. You will play a key role...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Ranchers Stewardship Alliance is accepting applications for an Executive Director. This position will provide leadership to RSA, develop a fund raising plan, and effectively communicate...
  • EQUITY IN THE OUTDOORS COORDINATOR
    The Equity in the Outdoors Coordinator will lead community engagement, program implementation and development, and data collection for the Eagle Valley Outdoor Movement (EVOM). EVOM...
  • COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT ASSISTANT
    The Idaho Conservation League is seeking a personable individual who is passionate about conservation to join our Sandpoint Field Office. The Community Engagement Assistant will...
  • LIGHTWEIGHT FLY ROD CASES
    4 standard or custom lengths. Rugged protection for backpacking. Affordable pricing.
  • EXPERIENTIAL EDUCATION INTERN/ASSISTANT
    Actively introduce students to Experiential Education, Outdoor Recreation, and Sustainability while engaging and challenging them to learn and participate in these diverse opportunities. Room, board,...
  • ENVIRONMENTAL INVESTIGATIVE MEDIA SERVICES
    In-depth investigations of polluters, lobbyists, regulators, elected officials and others focused on environmentally damaging projects in the U.S. and internationally. We specialize in mining projects,...
  • UNDEVELOPED 40 ACRES - SOUTHWEST COLORADO
    in beautiful Montezuma County.
  • TRUCK DRIVER
    Class A & B drivers, pass all DOT requirements and clean driving record
  • MARIA'S BOOKSHOP FOR SALE
    - Thriving Indie bookstore in the heart of Durango, Colorado. General bookstore with 34-year history as a community hub for Southwest region of CO. 1800...