A coalition of environmental groups sued the Trump administration Monday, challenging a rollback of protections for the nation’s waterways originally put in place under the Obama administration.

The Navigable Waters Protection Rule finalized by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in January limits federal protections for smaller bodies of water, a move critics say risks contamination of larger ones used for drinking water.

The suit, filed by Earthjustice on behalf of Sierra Club, other environmental groups, and a number of tribes, argued the Trump administration erred in removing protections for wetlands and streams that result from rainfall.

The plaintiffs called the rule an “egregious example of putting profits over people. Industrial polluters could potentially be given free rein to dump toxic pollution into nearly 2 million miles of the nation’s streams and 20 million acres of wetlands for which protections would be removed. This must not be allowed to happen.”

The suit, filed on the day the law takes effect, is the third filed by a coalition of environmental groups and follows litigation filed by 17 states. A Colorado-based suit has succeeded in temporarily blocking the rule there.

The latest suit asks the court to strike down the law, arguing it is arbitrary and capricious because it contrasts with previous EPA findings on the connectivity of water as well as existing protections for waterways.

The EPA’s independent Science Advisory Board reviewed the rule when it was first proposed, writing in a draft report that “aspects of the proposed rule are in conflict with established science … and the objectives of the Clean Water Act.”

“EPA and the Army [Corps of Engineers] developed the rule to protect the navigable waters and their core tributary systems for the entire country while respecting our statutory authority. The Rule strikes the proper balance between state and federal jurisdiction and is designed to end the confusion that has existed for decades,” an EPA official said by email.

President Trump repeatedly vowed to replace the Obama-era Waters of the U.S. rule during his campaign, a response, in part, to farmers who complained the rule subjected huge swaths of land to federal oversight.

“As long as I’m president, government will never micromanage America’s farmers,” he told a crowd at the American Farm Bureau Federation annual convention shortly before releasing his own rule.

Tags Donald Trump Earthjustice environmental protections EPA Navigable Waters Protection Rule The Sierra Club wetlands
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