Trump administration to drop Obama-era water protection rule

Federico Mansilla
Setiembre 13, 2019

The formal announcement repealing WOTUS was made jointly by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator, Andrew Wheeler, and Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, R.D. James, in Washington, D.C. and broadcast live via Facebook.

The rule came about after two Supreme Court decisions created uncertainty around what waterways and wetlands were owed protections. A chief concern raised with the 2015 rule was its inclusion of ephemeral, or temporary, features in its definition of federal water.

Both the policies laid out in the proposal and the rationalizations behind them were nearly instantly called into question when it was first unveiled, and while it appears the administration is willing to go to great lengths to see it implemented, it remains to be seen just how much leeway it will ultimately have. Regardless, for now we can all agree that saving animals is a good thing, as long as it doesn't put human health in jeopardy.

"We want to make sure that we have a definition that once and for all will be the law of the land in all 50 states".

The 2015 Waters of the United States rule defined the waterways subject to federal regulation. That rate began to slow after George H.W. Bush took the White House, pledging to stem the tide of wetlands loss. "What they are doing with this repeal, is leaving it to the states to handle it. They have always depended on EPA".

Meanwhile, the quality of American water will deteriorate and poor rural communities will be the first to pay the price, according to Southerland and other officials. "Wetlands are big flood control functions and filter pollutants out before they get to streams that we drink from". The rule opens the door for more pollution and toxic waste dumping in rivers, streams and wetlands across the country without any study of the effects on endangered wildlife.

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"Today's final rule, in combination with the replacement rule later in the year, could tear the soul out of the Clean Water Act's protection of small streams and wetlands", said Chris Wood, president and CEO of Trout Unlimited.

The Natural Resources Defense Council said the administration's action would be challenged in court.

Since enactment of the Clean Water Act in 1972, the federal government has gone beyond protection of navigable waterways and their major tributaries to assert jurisdiction over "isolated ponds and channels that only flow after it rains", Wheeler said. United States, 547 USA 715 (2006) (Rapanos) the Supreme Court took up the question of the proper test for determining if a small stream or wetland was "jurisdictional" under the Clean Water Act.

Continuing its assault on rivers and clean water nationwide, the Trump administration today released its final rule repealing the Obama administration's Clean Water Rule. Many said they would not sit idly by. The rule's critics and the Trump administration have said the rule amounted to government overreach because it allowed for expansive interpretation in what the federal agency could regulate, leading to scores of lawsuits with private property owners.

Edward's group is not alone in that challenge.

But farmers and industry groups said the rule went too far, impeding their operations by extending the pollution restrictions to small, unnavigable waters - some of which appeared only after it had rained. "This is shameful and unsafe", said Abigail Dillen, Earthjustice president. "With many of our cities and towns living with unsafe drinking water, now is not the time to cut back on clean water enforcement", said Laura Rubin, director of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. The executive order followed the legal view of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, which was not adopted by the Supreme Court.

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