Story at a glance
- The Trump administration is rolling back protections for some bodies of water.
- Streams, some rivers and wetlands will have less protections against pollution and other threats.
- The new EPA rule was published in the federal register on April 21.
The Trump administration published a final rule Tuesday rolling back Obama-era environmental protections.
The final rule, written by the Engineers Corps and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), redefines the scope of waters federally regulated under the Clean Water Act, passed under President Obama in 2015. The changes effectively remove limits on the amount of pollution that can be dumped into small streams and wetlands. The L.A. Times reports 81 percent of streams in the Southwest would lose protections.
Environmental groups criticized the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, which was proposed in December 2018, after it was finalized at the end of 2019. The final version is called The Navigable Waters Protection Rule.
Now, the National Wildlife Federation is voicing their opposition, saying they intend to fight the rule.
“Since the Administration refuses to protect our waters, we intend to fight this illegal rule with all tools available. We cannot afford to further put our public health at risk or lose protections for half of our remaining wetlands. It’s outrageous, but unsurprising, that this rule would come out just in time for Earth Day,” said Jim Murphy, director of legal advocacy for the National Wildlife Federation, in a release.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has also announced plans to sue the Trump administration over the rollback, arguing leaders failed to consider how it would impact endangered species.
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“As we wrestle with one of the country’s greatest public health crises, the need for strong protections to ensure safe and clean water for people, communities, and wildlife could not be clearer. This ill-advised rule goes in the opposite direction, threatening public drinking water supplies, wildlife habitat, and opportunity for safe recreation,” Murphy said.
In the EPA summary, the Department of the Army, Corps of Engineers, Department of Defense and EPA claim the rule maintains federal authority over the nation's waters while preserving the states' primary authority over land and water resources.
"This final definition increases the predictability and consistency of Clean Water Act programs by clarifying the scope of ‘waters of the United States’ federally regulated under the Act," reads the document.
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