Report: The Trump Administration Ends Protections For U.S. Wetlands
The Trump administration handed farmers, fossil fuel producers, and real estate developers a victory after finalizing a rule to strip away environmental protections for streams, wetlands, and other bodies of water, according to The New York Times
President Trump vowed to repeal President Barack Obama’s “Waters of the United States” regulation since Day 1 of his administration. His new rule is the latest step in the administration’s push to repeal or weaken nearly 100 environmental rules and laws, loosening or eliminating rules on climate change, clean air, chemical pollution, coal mining, oil drilling, and endangered species protections.
“I terminated one of the most ridiculous regulations of all: the last administration’s disastrous Waters of the United States rule,” he told the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual convention in Texas on Sunday.
“That was a rule that basically took your property away from you,” Trump added.
The new water rule will remove federal protections from more than half of the nation’s wetlands, as well as hundreds of thousands of small waterways. It would allow landowners and property developers to dump pollutants, such as pesticides and fertilizers, directly into many of those waterways, and to destroy or fill in wetlands for construction projects for the first time in decades.
“This will be the biggest loss of clean water protection the country has ever seen,” said Blan Holman, a lawyer with expertise in federal water policy at the Southern Environmental Law Center. “This puts drinking water for millions of Americans at risk of contamination from unregulated pollution. This is not just undoing the Obama rule. This is stripping away protections that were put in place in the ‘70s and ‘80s that Americans have relied on for their health.”
Farmers and fossil fuel groups supported the change.
Legal experts say that Trump’s replacement rule would not only repeal and replace the 2015 Obama rule, but it would also eliminate protections to smaller headwaters that have been enforced for decades under the 1972 Clean Water Act.
“This is rolling back federal jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act further than it’s ever been before,” said Patrick Parenteau, a professor of environmental law at Vermont Law School. “Waters that have been protected for almost 50 years will no longer be protected under the Clean Water Act.”
The EPA’s Scientific Advisory Board, a panel of 41 scientists -- many of whom were handpicked by the Trump administration -- responsible for evaluating the scientific integrity of the agency’s regulations, concluded that the new Trump water rule ignores science by “failing to acknowledge watershed systems.”
They found “no scientific justification” for excluding certain bodies of water from protection under the new regulations and concluded that pollutants from smaller and seasonal bodies of water can still have a significant impact on the health of larger water systems.