Trump Administration Rolls Back Obama-Era Clean Water Protections

Coastal Wetlands at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge in Newburyport, MA.U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region/Flickr

The Obama plan would have protected wetlands and estuaries in addition to the larger bodies of water they feed.

An expansion of the Clean Water Act proposed by the Obama administration was blocked last week by the Trump administration. The changes at issue involved the inclusion of smaller bodies of water, such as wetlands and estuaries, along with the larger bodies of water they feed.

Environmentalists praised the incorporation of such areas but farmers and developers decried the move as harmful to business growth.

Environmental Protection Agency Director Scott Pruitt has filed the documents needed to suspend the 2015 Clean Water Act for two years, claiming the action will “reduce confusion and provide certainty to America’s farmers and ranchers”.

The act had not yet taken effect due to court challenges by more than two dozen states, but Pruitt's rolling back of the rule put the issue to rest.

“The 2015 WOTU rule developed by the Obama administration will not be applicable for the next two years, while we work through the process of providing long-term regulatory certainty across all 50 states about what waters are subject to federal regulation,” Mr Pruitt said in a statement, referring to the act by its nickname, the Waters of the US (WOTUS) rule.

While the move was celebrated by farmers, ranchers, and developers, environmentalists noted that relaxed rules likely to follow will benefit business at the expense of the people:

“Communities across our country can’t just ‘suspend’ their need for clean water anymore than they can suspend their need for the sun to come up, which makes this ridiculous giveaway to polluters all the more galling,” said Dalal Aboulhosn, Deputy Legislative Director for Land and Water for the Sierra Club.

She added: “We will fight this despicable action today with all the resources we have and continue to fight for clean water protections across America.”

Blocking the Clean Water Act changes is just the latest move by the Trump administration to undo environmental protections implemented or proposed by President Barack Obama.